The Mortgage Fraud Task Force launched by the Southwest Riverside County AOR and the Inland Valley AOR almost 5 years ago, recently held a multi-regional meeting during the California Association of Realtors Mid-Winter Business Meetings in Monterey.
What started as an effort to educate the public, law enforcement and Realtor members about the mortgage fraud abuses going on at the time has morphed much like the fraud we are trying to eradicate. In a general sense, our mission has expanded to include not only mortgage fraud but elder-abuse & reverse mortgage fraud, short-sale scams, foreclosure rescue scams and so on. In short, whenever we run across a new scheme to separate people from their money unlawfully involving an element of the housing market, we hope to be on top of it.
Even our name has changed to reflect this shift in emphasis to simply the Real Estate Fraud Task Force. And membership in our little group has expanded to include Realtors, attorneys, an appraiser, mortgage bankers and representatives from our District Attorney’s office (who wouldn’t even return our phone calls when we started).
What’s even more exciting is that we are now expanding multi-regional. I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign but obviously fraud isn’t going away so we need to try to stay ahead of the curve. Last October we held a joint meeting with the Ventura County Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team. REFAT was founded in 2005 for the same reason our group started – to combat real estate fraud. Their group enjoyed the support of the Ventura County DA’s Office from the start and their group has held numerous outreach forums and panels, published a pamphlet for the public and even produced a DVD on fraud.
Our joint task force meeting held last week expanded again to include representatives from Orange and San Diego County AOR’s to learn more about what we’re doing and lend their own efforts to combat this industry scourge. We have also had representatives from the California Association of Realtors, specifically from the legal department, attend these past two meetings.
Our hope is that CAR will come to understand the scope of the problem and step up with some money and resources to take the battle statewide. By lending their authority, their expertise and their budget to the problem, we feel we could make even greater headway in educating the public, making members aware of the scams and getting law enforcement involved from the Attorney General right down to local Sheriffs offices.
But while CAR has lent an ear, they haven’t lent us any resources YET. We remain optimistic. We also remain a stridently grass-roots effort at this time albeit one with a passion. As our task force expands to include other AOR’s throughout the state, we may become a de facto state level task force that earns the support and participation of our state organization. Our initial request to at least implement a Fraud Blog to function as a clearing house for statewide member input fell on deaf ears but they recently added a link from the CAR.org website to the ActiveRain Mortgage Fraud Group.
After a brief summary article on fraud on the CAR Legal Blog by Neil Kalin, CAR Assistant General Counsel, there is commentary about our local Fraud Task Force efforts and the article goes on to say: REALTORS(R) are encouraged to go the following webpages: http://activerain.com/blogsview/778203/MortgageFraudBlog-Conference-Day-2 and http://activerain.com/blogsview/779750/MortgageFraudBlog-Conference-Day-2-bonus-tracks to review this information which should prove useful to REALTORS(R) in identifying fraud.
So while we do not yet enjoy the full support of our state association in this endeavor, they have at least provided some avenue for members to follow to learn more about the problems. Thanks to the members of the ActiveRain Fraud Group who have contributed and continue to post articles to help educate our members and members of the public on the perils and reach of fraud. Law enforcement can only react after the fact – WE are the ones on the front lines who can have the greatest impact on sparing our clients.
Realtors – we’re part of the solution not part of the problem. Make it so.