Short Sale Schemes
A real estate short sale is a type of pre-foreclosure sale in which the lender agrees to sell a property for less than the mortgage owed. Short sale fraud consists of false statements made to loan servicers or lenders that take the form of buyer or seller affirmations of no hidden relationships or agreements in place to resell the property, typically for a period of 90 days. One of the most common forms of a short sale scheme occurs when the subject is alleged to be purchasing foreclosed properties via short sale, but not submitting the “best offer” to the lender and subsequently selling the property in a dual closing the same day or within a short time frame for a significant profit. Reverse staging and comparable shopping techniques are currently being used by fraud perpetrators in the commission of short sale frauds. The fraud primarily occurs in areas of the country that are experiencing high rates of foreclosure or homeowner distress.
Industry participants are reporting that short sale fraud schemes continue to be an increasing threat to the mortgage industry. A recent CoreLogic study indicated that short sale volume has tripled from 2009 to 2010.49 In June 2010, Freddie Mac reported that short sale transactions were up 700 percent compared to 2008.
Industry sources report that in the process of committing short sale fraud, fraudsters are manipulating the Broker Price Opinions (BPOs) and MLS; engaging in non-arms-length transactions;50 using LLCs to hide their involvement in short sale transactions;51 failing to record short sale deeds of trust; using back-to-back and multiple real estate agent closings; selling properties to an LLC or trust months before the sale;52 selling the property to a family member or other party the fraudsters control and deeding the property back to themselves; engaging in escrow thefts, simultaneous double sales to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and failing to pay off the original loan in a refinance transaction; property flopping;53 bribing brokers and appraisers; refusing to allow the broker or appraiser access to the property unless the fraudster is present; providing their own comparables to the appraiser; taking unflattering photographs of the property and pointing out defects in the property to the appraiser;54 providing false estimates of repair, rebuttal of appraisal, and selection of poor comparable properties;55 and facilitating the partnership of attorneys with non-attorneys to split fees acquired during short sale negotiations.56
As reported in April 2013 on the FBI's official website: