Fraud

CFPB Charges Title Company with $1.25 million Dollar Fine

The CFPB takes RESPA matters seriously. While many states, like Minnesota, require a disclosure form describing the relationship between lenders, real estate agents, title companies, appraisers, etc., those who do not disclose those relationships are up for serious fines.
Read the full article here CFBP RELEASE

FinCEN Advisory on Money Laundering Scams

FinCEN Advisory

See Advisory HERE

Lender Sues Specialty Insurer for Cyberspace Crime

A California-based mortgage company hit its insurer with a lawsuit in a New York federal court Tuesday seeking to recoup under a $3 million policy “substantial” losses incurred when an impostor duped the mortgage lender into wiring money for a nonexistent transaction.
American Pacific Mortgage Corp. asserts that Aspen Specialty Insurance Company must indemnify it for a cyberattack that resulted in an employee wiring more than $75,000 to a fictional company.

More here at Housing Wire

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to people interested in buying a home that scammers were posing as real estate agents, Realtors and title insurance companies to steal consumers’ closing costs.
And earlier this year, the FTC and NAR reissued that same warning because similar scams are still taking place.
In these scams, hackers take over the email accounts of homebuyers, real estate agents, lenders or Realtors. They obtain information about upcoming real estate transactions and send an email to the homebuyer, pretending to be the real estate agent or the title company that’s being used for the closing.

The email tells the buyer that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and instructs the buyer to wire their closing costs to a different account – one controlled by the hacker. Then, once the buyer sends the money to the scammer’s account, the money disappears.

Do you have Cyber Insurance?

Protect Your Money from Wire Fraud Schemes – ALTA Video

Buying and selling a home is an exciting time, but there can be pitfalls for unsuspecting consumers . The American Land Title Association wants homeowners and sellers to be aware that criminals are using wire fraud schemes to steal money meant for home purchases or the proceeds from the sale of the property. Watch this video for four tips to protect your money and advice for what to do if you’ve been targeted by a scam.

See the ALTA VIDEO HERE

CFPB Gives Snapshot of Complaints from Older Consumers

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a complaint report highlighting complaints submitted by older consumers.

The snapshot shows that older consumers frequently report servicing problems with reverse mortgages, difficulties recovering money after financial scams, confusion around deferred interest credit cards, and charges for unauthorized add-on products. The snapshot provides an overview and analysis of more than 103,100 complaints submitted to the Bureau by consumers voluntarily reporting their age as 62 or older.

“Older consumers who may be on a fixed income are at a greater risk for financial trouble if they encounter problems with financial products or services,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The complaints submitted by older consumers are important for the Bureau to ensure we are properly looking out for this segment of the population.”

The Monthly Complaint Report can be found at: CFPB Press release

CFPB Seeks Comments on Proposed Mortgage Servicing Rule

CFPB Seeks Servicing Agent Comments on Proposed Mortgage Servicing Rules.  This is an important discussion for Service Providers who work for Mortgage Lenders

 LINK TO CFPB POST

By Erik Durbin and Paul Rothstein – MAY 04, 2017

Today, we’ve released our plan to assess the effectiveness of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) mortgage servicing rule. We are asking the public to comment on our plan, to suggest sources of data, and generally to provide other information that would help with the assessment.

Mortgage loan servicers are typically responsible for several activities relating to mortgage loans such as:

  • Processing loan payments
  • Responding to borrower inquiries
  • Keeping track of principal and interest paid
  • Managing escrow accounts
  • Reporting to investors
  • Pursuing collection and loss mitigation activities (including foreclosures and loan modifications) under certain circumstances

In January 2013, the CFPB issued the 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule. We amended the rule a few times before it took effect, and we refer to all of the requirements and related amendments that took effect on January 10, 2014, as the RESPA mortgage servicing rule. This rule gave borrowers new consumer protections related to mortgage loan servicing, many of which were aimed at helping consumers who were having trouble making their mortgage payments.

The RESPA mortgage servicing rule requires, among other things, that servicers provide disclosures to borrowers related to force-placed insurance, respond to errors asserted by borrowers in a timely manner, and follow certain procedures related to loss mitigation applications and communications with borrowers. For example, servicers generally must acknowledge written notices of error within five days and investigate and respond to the borrower in writing within 30 days. In general, the consumer protection purposes of RESPA include that servicers respond to borrower requests and complaints in a timely manner, maintain and provide accurate information, help borrowers avoid unwarranted or unnecessary costs and fees, and facilitate review for foreclosure avoidance options.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) requires us to review some of our rules within five years after they take effect. These formal reviews are called assessments. We are conducting an assessment of the RESPA mortgage servicing rule, and we will issue a report of the assessment by January 2019. As required by law, the assessment will address the rule’s effectiveness in meeting the purposes and objectives of title X of the Dodd-Frank Act and the specific goals of the rule, using available evidence and data. We recently released our plan for the remittance rule assessment, as well.

We see conducting the assessment as an opportunity. Conducting the assessment will advance our knowledge of the benefits and costs of the key requirements of the RESPA mortgage servicing rule. The assessment will also provide the public with information on the mortgage servicing market, and help us to fulfill our commitment to be an evidence-based and effective agency.

We would like your help in improving the assessment.

We invite consumers, consumer advocates, housing counselors, mortgage loan servicers, industry representatives, and other interested parties to comment on our assessment plan. Comments can suggest sources of data, offer other recommendations, and generally provide information that would help us understand the rule’s effectiveness or improve this important work.

We are committed to well-tailored and effective regulations and have sought to carefully calibrate our efforts to ensure consistency with respect to consumer financial protections across the financial services marketplace.

Comments on the plan will be due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Learn more about your options and rights related to mortgage loans.

For more information on how to comply with the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules, visit our implementation and guidance page.

Topics:

 

 

Join the conversation. Follow CFPB on Twitter  and Facebook .

 

SEC Addresses Important Cyber-Security Measures for Service Providers

I just completed my PCI Compliance ( Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards report that requires specific security and use of qualified vendors who accept credit card payments on our behalf.) So  data security has been on my plate and on my mind.  I was particularly concerned after hearing about the recent ransom-ware attack that affected business, governments, hospitals and other entities computers in 75 countries including the US…. Scary stuff.

So it seems important to pass on the new SEC information on cyber-security.

“The staff observed a wide range of information security practices, procedures and controls across registrants that may be tailored to the firms’ operations, lines of business, risk profile and size,” as well as “firm practices during this Initiative that the staff believes may be particularly relevant to smaller registrants in relation to the recent WannaCry ransomware incident.”

Key findings from the examination, as reported in the alert, are as follows:

  • Cyberrisk assessment: “5 percent of broker-dealers and 26 percent of advisers and funds (collectively, ‘investment management firms’) examined did not conduct periodic risk assessments of critical systems to identify cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and the potential business consequences.”
  • Penetration tests: “5 percent of broker-dealers and 57 percent of the investment management firms examined did not conduct penetration tests and vulnerability scans on systems that the firms considered to be critical.”
  • System maintenance: “All broker-dealers and 96 percent of investment management firms examined have a process in place for ensuring regular system maintenance, including the installation of software patches to address security vulnerabilities. However, 10 percent of the broker-dealers and 4 percent of investment management firms examined had a significant number of critical and high-risk security patches that were missing important updates.”

The SEC also noted that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has created a webpage with links to resources related to cybersecurity. It includes a cybersecurity checklist for small firms and a report on cybersecurity practices, which highlights effective practices for strengthening cybersecurity programs.

It is estimated that the ransomware attack affected more than 200,000 computers in about 150 countries, beginning May 12. The malicious software is known as “WannaCry,” “WCry” and “Wanna Decryptor,” which works by encrypting files and demands payment from users to regain access to their data.

“Initial reports indicate that the hacker or hacking group behind the attack is gaining access to enterprise servers either through Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) compromise or the exploitation of a critical Windows Server Message Block version 1 vulnerability,” the alert states. “Some networks have also been affected through phishing emails and malicious websites.

“To protect against the WannaCry ransomware, broker-dealers and investment management firms are encouraged to:

(1) review the alert published by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team and

(2) evaluate whether applicable Microsoft patches for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems are properly and timely installed.”

California Man Gets Two Years in Title Theft Scheme

   

press release

11/20/2016

Daniel Deaibes was sentenced recently to 24 months for his role in a scheme to steal title to Southern California homes and then “sell” the properties to unsuspecting buyers – before the buyers realized who the true owners were.

From September 2012 through their arrest in November 2014, Deaibes and his co-conspirators, including co-defendants Mazen Alzoubi and Mohamed Daoud, fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 15 homes worth more than $3.6 million that actually never belonged to them. On at least 10 occasions, they were successful—earning illicit proceeds of nearly $2.2 million.

Deaibes pleaded guilty in March 2015 to participating in the fraud and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant. As part of this plea, Deaibes admitted that he used aliases to deceive escrow and title officers into believing that he was “John Moran,” and that he was the true owner of property that was being marketed for sale. In fact, “John Moran” did not exist, and Deaibes and his co-conspirators planned to fraudulently sell the properties, divert the proceeds to their own bank accounts, and then quickly disburse the money overseas. On at least three occasions, Deaibes, posing as “Moran” and presenting a fake driver’s license, appeared before notaries to sign title documents and property deeds.

To make it appear that they owned these properties, the co-conspirators generated forged deeds that made it appear the true property owner had sold his or her home to a sham real estate “investment” business the co-conspirators controlled. They forged the true owners’ signatures on the deeds, and used forged notary stamps to make them appear legitimate. In reality, though, the true owners were entirely unaware of the pretend sales. Once the fraudulent documents were recorded in the chain of title, Alzoubi (using aliases and stolen identities) listed the properties for sale, posing to buyers, escrow companies, and title officers as the new owner. In this way, the co-conspirators collected all the proceeds of the sale, and the true owners were left with nothing.

Alzoubi, the ringleader of the fraudulent scheme, assumed multiple fake identities to keep the scheme going. He also posed as real people, pretending on one occasion that he was an attorney for one of the true owners. (Unbeknownst to Alzoubi at the time, he was talking to an undercover federal agent.) As a result of his greater role in the scheme, Alzoubi was charged with, and in January 2016 pleaded guilty to, aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison in addition to his sentence for the fraud and money laundering. His sentencing is scheduled for November 7, 2016, at 9:00 am, before Judge Bashant.

Mohamed Daoud also pleaded guilty, in July 2015, admitting that he helped Alzoubi launder the proceeds of the scheme. They used Daoud’s company, “Norway LLC,” to pretend to acquire title to some of the properties. Daoud received approximately $270,000 in proceeds. In December 2015, before he was sentenced, Daoud fled the country and is now a fugitive.

Most of the properties the co-conspirators “sold” were post-foreclosure properties owned by banks or institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are governmentsponsored enterprises with a mission to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the United States housing and mortgage markets. As part of this mission, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase residential mortgages in the secondary market, enabling lenders to replenish their funds to finance additional single family loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can become the property owners if they own the mortgage loan at the time a home is foreclosed.

“Schemes like this one undermine the public’s confidence in their most personal and important investment, their homes,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “I am committed to prosecuting people who continue to prey on the victims of the devastating mortgage meltdown, and sending those criminals to prison.”

“This scheme was designed to literally rip home ownership right out of the hands of innocent victims, and for those victims the costs were far greater than a title to a house,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge, Western Region. “This scheme is callous and the perpetrators deserve the punishment set out for them. FHFA-OIG remains committed to our relentless pursuit of individuals who try to profit from the aftermath of the housing crisis.” “

Fraud targeting a family’s home, the heart of a family’s financial investment, has a ripple effect through our nation’s economy,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “The FBI is committed to investigate and uncover schemes by those who defraud homeowners.”

In addition to his jail sentence, Deaibes was ordered to pay $1,819,591 in restitution to the victims of the fraud.

 

First American: Loan Application Defect and Fraud Risk Declines

Press Release 7/31/2016

First American Financial Corporation, a leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, today released theFirst American Loan Application Defect Index for June 2016, which estimates the frequency of defects, fraudulence and misrepresentation in the information submitted in mortgage loan applications. The Defect Index reflects estimated mortgage loan defect rates over time, by geography and by loan type. It’s available as an interactive tool that can be tailored to showcase trends by category, including amortization type, lien position, loan purpose, property and transaction types, as well as state and market comparisons of mortgage loan defect levels.

“The Defect Index has fallen 5.3 percent over the last three months, and this trend shows no sign of abating. The index has been reaching new lows this year, continuing its long-term trend. Since its inception, the Defect Index has been consistently trending lower, apart from the increases in risk in 2013 and early 2015,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American.

“There are two factors driving the long-term decline in the Defect Index, the impact of improvements to the systems and production standards mitigating risk throughout the lending industry, and the continued strength of refinance application activity due to low mortgage rates. According to the MBA, refinance activity is up slightly on a year-over-year basis. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage was 3.57 percent, compared to 3.6 percent in May,” said Fleming. “Our research finds that refinance applications are inherently less risky than purchase applications, so defect and fraud risk declines as refinance applications become a larger share of the overall mix of loan applications.”

The Defect Index for refinance transactions declined 3.2 percent month-over-month, and is 15.5 percent lower than a year ago. The Defect Index for purchase transactions declined 1.2 percent month-over-month, and is down 11.1 percent compared to a year ago. Since defect risk for both purchase and refinance transactions peaked in late 2013, defect risk on refinance transactions continues to decline much more than defect risk for purchase transactions, declining 40.0 percent as compared to 23.7 percent for purchase transactions.

“We expect the declining loan application defect risk trend to continue into July, as the impacts of ‘Brexit’ and global uncertainty keep rates low, triggering an increase in the volume of lower risk refinance loan applications,” said Fleming.

June 2016 State Highlights

  • The five states with the highest year-over-year increase in defect frequency are: Maine (+14.0 percent), North Dakota (+13.6 percent), Missouri (+10.0 percent), Montana (+5.3 percent), and Alaska (+2.8 percent).
  • The five states with the highest year-over-year decrease in defect frequency are: Michigan (-31.4 percent), Florida (-21.8 percent), Delaware (-19.5 percent), Connecticut (-17.8 percent), and New York (-17.6 percent).

June 2016 Local Market Highlights

  • Among the largest 50 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), the only one market with year-over-year increase in defect frequency is: St. Louis (+9.9 percent).
  • Among the largest 50 CBSAs, the five markets with the highest year-over-yeardecrease in defect frequency are: Detroit (-35.9 percent); Jacksonville, Fla. (-23.5 percent); Miami (-22.7 percent); Louisville/Jefferson, Ky. (-20.3 percent); and Orlando, Fla. (-20.2 percent).

Where in the Application is the Defect Risk?

“In the post-crisis housing finance landscape, the attention paid to the borrower’s ability-to-pay and emphasis on issuing loans that have a reasonable and sustainable mortgage payment has increased. In other words – income matters,” said Fleming. “Within the Loan Application Defect Risk Index, we also measure specific risk categories, including defect, misrepresentation and fraud risk associated with the reporting and documentation of income in a mortgage loan application.”

“If the income is being inaccurately measured or misrepresented intentionally in the loan application, the borrower’s true ability-to-pay and the sustainability of the mortgage are incorrectly measured. Interestingly, the trend in income-related defect risk offers some good news. The risk related to income is down 3 percent over the last three months and more than 10 percent in the last year,” said Fleming. “This beneficial decline in income-related defect and misrepresentation risk is a benefit of the technological and process investments made by the lending industry to meet compliance and regulatory requirements. The result is better measurement at the loan application level of the borrower’s ability-to-pay and more accurate identification of sustainable mortgages.

“Income-related misrepresentation and fraud risk is declining, as loan underwriting standards have become more disciplined and as the lending industry have made compliance and regulatory driven investments,” said Fleming. “We continue to improve our ability to accurately project a borrower’s ability-to-pay and the sustainability of a mortgage — a benefit to consumers and lenders alike.”

Next Release

The next release of the First American Loan Application Defect Index will be posted the week of August 22, 2016.

Methodology

The methodology statement for the First American Loan Application Defect Index is available athttp://www.firstam.com/economics/defect-index.

Disclaimer

Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page are those of First American’s Chief Economist, do not necessarily represent the views of First American or its management, should not be construed as indicating First American’s business prospects or expected results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2016 by First American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a leading provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions that traces its heritage back to 1889. First American also provides title plant management services; title and other real property records and images; valuation products and services; home warranty products; property and casualty insurance; and banking, trust and investment advisory services. With revenues of $5.2 billion in 2015, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2016, First American was recognized by Fortune®magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. More information about the company can be found atwww.firstam.com.

FinCEN asks Title Companies to Investigate Cash Sales and $ Laundering

WASHINGTON

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO) that will temporarily require certain U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind companies used to pay all cash for high-end residential real estate in the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York, and Miami-Dade County, Florida. FinCEN is concerned that all-cash purchases (i.e. those without bank financing) may be conducted by individuals attempting to hide their assets and identity by purchasing residential properties through limited liability companies or other opaque structures. To enhance availability of information pertinent to mitigating this potential money laundering vulnerability, FinCEN will require certain title insurance companies to identify and report the true “beneficial owner” behind a legal entity involved in certain high-end residential real estate transactions in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County.

We are seeking to understand the risk that corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals, may be using premium U.S. real estate to secretly invest millions in dirty money, said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. Over the years, our rules have evolved to make the standard mortgage market more transparent and less hospitable to fraud and money laundering. But cash purchases present a more complex gap that we seek to address. These GTOs will produce valuable data that will assist law enforcement and inform our broader efforts to combat money laundering in the real estate sector.

The order is temporary in effect, through August 27th. Read full article HERE.

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association