Reports of suspicious mortgage loan activity increased nationwide for the 10th year in a row in 2011, according to federal data released earlier this month. Florida accounted for more of those reports than any state but California and was the source of one in every 10 cases of suspected mortgage fraud.
In 2002, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network received 483 reports of suspected mortgage loan fraud in Florida. In 2011, it received 9,262 -- an increase of 1,817 percent. Florida reported more suspicious mortgage dealings in one year than many states have accumulated over the past decade.
FinCEN spokesman Bill Grassano said while institutions have gotten "better at spotting what looks like monkey business," much of the rise can be attributed to more widespread proliferation of ripoffs.
"The numbers kind of speak for themselves," Grassano said. "There's probably a pretty good correlation that fraud has gone up... People lose their jobs, and they're afraid they're going to lose their home. It happens. They get desperate. And scammers come in, and they take advantage."
Florida's suspicious mortgage fraud activity reports peaked in 2009, with more than 10,000 tips filed with the federal government. It dropped to 9,100 in 2010, and twitched back up to 9,262 in 2011.
At the county level, the reports are tallied according to how many subjects are mentioned in the reports. While Los Angeles County is tops in the country with more than 11,000 people mentioned, Miami-Dade is number two, with 7,058. Broward is sixth in the nation, and Palm Beach County is 13th.
All told, about nine out of every 100 people referenced in a potential mortgage fraud report came from South Florida last year.
There's a lot more data to sift through, but I know you don't want to read it all at once. Expect more later this week.