Mortgage fraud affects not only lenders but also consumers. What can consumers do to protect themselves from mortgage fraud?

Merle Sharick, vice president and national manager for business development at the Mortgage Asset Research Institute (MARI) offers some tips that consumers can use to protect themselves from mortgage lending fraud.

  1. Know who you are doing business with. Do some research on the mortgage companies you are interested in working with for your mortgage loan needs. Look at their rates, policies and reputation. Run a Web search to see if they’ve been in the news for mortgage fraud.

  2. Know if they are reputable. Consumers can contact agencies that track mortgage fraud to find out if the company they are doing business with is legitimate. Each state has a different agency that handles mortgage fraud. Some of the common ones are your state’s Department of Finance, the State Banking Department, the Department of Commerce. Also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if anyone has complained about mortgage fraud or other complaints for your mortgage lender.

  3. Know if they have your best interests as a customer in mind. Excessive fees, unanswered questions and inflexibility are all red flags that mortgage companies do not have your best interests in mind and may be involved in mortgage lending fraud. Make sure you are not being pressured into a mortgage loan you can’t afford. A good mortgage company, who does not engage in mortgage fraud, will not do that to you.

For a consumer who has already been a victim of mortgage fraud, Sharick says there still might be a way out. “What they’ve got to do is they’ve got to go to a legitimate lender, number one. And try to work through a situation with them,” Sharick said. He believes, from a lender’s perspective, if a borrower has reasonable credit, has tried to deal with the situation and hasn’t been involved in any mortgage fraud or misrepresentation they should be able to figure something out.

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