WASHINGTON, D.C. -- (February 13, 2008) -- Rachel Dollar, CMB, a partner in the law firm Smith Dollar PC in Santa Rosa, California testified today before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging at a hearing titled, "Foreclosure Aftermath: Preying on Senior Homeowners." Ms. Dollar is one of the nation's foremost experts on mortgage fraud schemes and has been named one of the country's "100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders" by Inman News.
In her testimony before the committee, Ms. Dollar made the following comments:
"It is important to protect homeowners, especially the elderly, from scams that can result in the loss of people's primary financial asset, their home. The impact of fraud, scams and deceptive practices on the elderly can be both psychologically and financially devastating.
The current increase in foreclosures around the country heightens the concern that borrowers may be lured by bogus offers of help, particularly in the case of older homeowners, who may be targeted by fraudsters.
To protect a borrower from becoming a victim of a foreclosure rescue or bailout scheme, MBA recommends consumers keep the following six points in mind:
· If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is;
· Beware of offers to "save" homeowners from default or foreclosure;
· If you're having trouble, contact your mortgage servicer or call (888) 995-HOPE;
· Make every effort to understand the papers and forms being presented;
· Never sign any loan documents that contain blanks; and
· Make sure the servicer is fully aware of, and approves any transfer of title to the property.
The best assistance Senators can offer to stop foreclosure rescue scams is to educate constituents who find themselves in financial difficulty to call their loan servicer or the HOPE hotline at (888) 995-HOPE.
Although there are no precise statistics available on the extent or cost of mortgage fraud, the Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network reported that Suspicious Activity Reports or "SARs" related to mortgage fraud increased almost 400 percent from 2003 to 2006. The FBI has also seen its mortgage fraud casework increase over 235 percent and estimates financial losses to the mortgage industry for 2006 between $946 million and $4.2 billion.
MBA is proactively working with law enforcement in an effort to curb mortgage fraud crimes. On March 8, 2007, MBA signed a memorandum of agreement with the FBI to promote the FBI's Mortgage Fraud Warning Notice. The Notice states that it is illegal to make any false statements regarding income, assets, debt or matters of identification, or to willfully inflate property value to influence the action of a financial institution.
MBA continues to advocate for increasing the investigation and prosecution of mortgage fraud by law enforcement agencies, improving the communication between mortgage lenders and state and federal agencies.
To that end, MBA requests Congress appropriate $6.25 million per year, over a five-year period, of dedicated funding for the FBI's efforts in tracking down and prosecuting mortgage fraud. The funding would provide for new FBI field investigators; additional prosecutors dedicated to mortgage fraud; and support for the operations of FBI Interagency Task Forces."
Ms. Dollar's full written testimony can be found at www.mortgagebankers.org
SOURCE: The Mortgage Bankers Association