U.S. mortgage fraud "rampant" and growing: FBI

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Jul 8, 2009 10:06am EDT

A prospective home buyer stands on the porch of a condominium for sale with her real estate agent in Somerville, Massachusetts April 2, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A prospective home buyer stands on the porch of a condominium for sale with her real estate agent in Somerville, Massachusetts April 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. mortgage fraud reports jumped 36 percent last year as desperate homeowners and industry professionals tried to maintain their standard of living from the boom years, the FBI said on Tuesday.

Suspicious activity reports rose to 63,713 in fiscal year 2008, which ended last September, from 46,717 the year before. California and Florida, centers of the housing bust, had the highest numbers of suspicious reports as foreclosures jumped, the stock market dropped and credit dried up.

"These combined factors uncovered and fueled a rampant mortgage fraud climate fraught with opportunistic participants desperate to maintain or increase their current standard of living," the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in its report.

"Industry employees sought to maintain the high standard of living they enjoyed during the boom years of the real estate market and overextended mortgage holders were often desperate to reduce or eliminate their bloated mortgage payments," it said.

Reports filed through March put fraud reports on track to top 70,000 in the current fiscal year, the agency said.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson, Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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