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Beware mortgage fraud if moving to California

Beware mortgage fraud before signing on the dotted line, especially in California.

Beware mortgage fraud before signing on the dotted line, especially in California.

Individuals relocating to California, Nevada, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., should be especially alert to mortgage fraud, as these are the top states for mortgage fraud per capita, according to a recently released Financial Crimes Enforcement Network report.

Overall, mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports (MLF SARs) were up 31 percent in the first quarter of 2011 from a year prior. However, the number of MLF SARs addressing potential frauds committed within the past three months decreased from 10 percent of all SARs filed in the first quarter of 2010 to 6 percent in 2011. The majority of MLF SARs in both 2010 and 2011 were regarding frauds committed three to four years ago.

While not all mortgage fraudsters target homebuyers, some do. The FCEN report describes a predatory lending scheme in which a buyer with credit issues was approached by purported loan officers who said they could lend to him, but only if he worked with them at a non-branch location and did not ask for them by name at the local bank branch.

Of the top 10 metro areas with the most MLF SARs, six are in California, including all the top five: San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento.

A recent California Association of Realtors report showed the state's housing market outperforming the rest of the country in terms of year-over-year home sale volume, which in the Golden State was 12 percent greater in May 2011 than May 2010.