FNTG Rewards Fraud Busters

By Lisa A. Tyler
National Escrow Administrator

Following your instincts can pay off dearly for the Company – and for you. In this edition of Fraud Insights, read about Darlene Phillips, an Escrow Officer from Fidelity National Title – Solano County, California, who followed through on her suspicions of forgery and prevented future claims and losses for the Company and the public. In recognition of Darlene’s efforts to thwart crime, the Company rewarded her with a commission of $500.00.

FNTG is committed to reducing fraud and forgery in the real estate industry. As the real estate market slows, fraud and forgery are on the rise. Fraud Insights reports those nationwide occurrences to you. By taking the time to read the reported cases in this newsletter, you will raise your awareness and possibly save your operation and the Company substantial time and money.

We would like to hear from you. If you have an interesting story to share regarding fraud or forgery in your area, please contact us by e-mail at settlement@fnf.com or by phone at (888) 934.3354.

If you received this e-mail communication “second hand,” that means we don’t have your contact information. Please e-mail it to us today at settlement@fnf.com and next month you won’t have to rely on your neighbor to forward this enlightening and informative newsletter. Please keep in mind that this is an internal publication and we will only add FNTG employees to the mailing list.

Caught in the Act - Loan Officer Forges Security Instrument

Darlene Phillips, an Escrow Officer for Fidelity National Title’s Solano County operation, sent her recording and policy instructions to the recording desk during the processing of a typical refinance transaction. During the date down process, the recording desk clerk notified Darlene that a new Deed of Trust was recorded since the issuance of the title report.

Darlene reviewed the new Deed of Trust and was amazed by how different the signatures were on the new loan she was about to close and the recently recorded Deed of Trust. Darlene sent a demand request letter and received a zero balance demand. She contacted the borrower for more information. Mr. Borrower was not aware of the new loan and claimed that he and his wife did not sign the document on the date it was notarized.

When she realized that the loan officer for the new refinance she was about to close was also the notary on the recorded Deed of Trust, she grew more suspicious. She contacted the notary/loan officer who admitted to forging his borrowers’ signatures as a post-funding condition and recorded the Deed of Trust himself as well. When questioned by Darlene, the notary/loan officer’s response was, “Can’t we just make this go away?”

Darlene was not influenced by his pleas to sweep the incident under the rug and reported the falsified notary acknowledgement to the Secretary of State. Thereafter, Darlene (with management approval) informed the lender that her operation would no longer accept documents notarized by that particular loan officer.

Needless to say, the loan officer is pursuing another career path in another geographic location.

In recognition of Darlene’s efforts to thwart crime, the Company rewarded her with a $500.00 commission.


Lightening Can Strike Twice!

Darlene Phillips was signing a seller on an $830,000 residential sale. She stepped out of the signing to copy the seller’s driver license. While walking to the copier, a tip from an escrow training seminar flashed through her mind as she held the extraordinarily thin license in her hand.

She stopped to compare the license to that of another employee to confirm her suspicions. Darlene returned the identification to the seller, finished the sign-up and then faxed the seller’s completed Statement of Information to her title officer.

The title officer informed Darlene that the principal was a purchaser in another transaction two years ago. Darlene found the prior file and reviewed the State of Information form. On the new form, he claimed he had no kids, no spouse and the addresses did not match, but the name and birth date were exactly the same.

Darlene contacted local authorities and discovered that the identification was falsified using the Social Security number of an elderly woman. She stopped the transaction and issued a resignation letter, refusing to close or insure.

Again, Darlene’s awareness of falsified identification tactics learned through past escrow educational seminars paid off for both her and the Company.


How Many Social Security Numbers Do You Have?

During a suspicious transaction, the “escrow radar” of a closer in Indiana was going off and she needed some advice. A gentleman was buying a home and getting a purchase money loan. When he came into the office to close, the only form of identification he had was his taxpayer identification number card. The card did not contain a picture, signature or physical description and the name did not exactly match the name on his loan documents. She asked him for additional identification that contained a picture and signature. He did not have it.

The closer was concerned, so she dug further into the file. She reviewed the 1003 form and discovered that the Social Security number listed on the loan application did not match the number on the taxpayer identification card that the borrower presented to her. She called the National Escrow Administrators and was advised to call the funding lender and speak with a supervisor.

The closer made the call and consequently the lender pulled the loan and contacted the mortgage broker to find out why this was not caught sooner. The lender thanked the closer over and over for catching this discrepancy.

If you or someone from your office is involved in a suspicious transaction, don’t hesitate to contact the National Escrow Administrators at settlement@fnf.com or by phone at (888) 934.3354.


Broker Facilitates Mortgage Fraud and Identity Theft

On the surface, it appeared to be a typical refinance transaction. The lender’s instructions listed a few consumer debts that needed to be paid off as a condition of funding. Our Escrow Officer listed those debts on the HUD-1 Statement, called the borrower to schedule closing and instructed him to bring the supporting documentation to make those payments.

When the borrower came in to sign, he forgot to bring his account information. The Escrow Officer took his signatures anyway, and explained to him that the account numbers and addresses were needed in order to make those payments as required by his lender. She even noted on her HUD-1, “account information required.” Well, as you might suspect, the funding came and went and that information was never provided by the borrower.

A couple of months later, management was reviewing its dormant funds and discovered that those checks had been cut, but were still sitting in the file. The manager called the borrower to request the account information, once again. The borrower explained that he used someone else’s Social Security number to obtain that loan, therefore those debts were not his, but belonged to the person whose identity he “borrowed” in order to obtain the refinance. He also said his mortgage broker was fully aware of this. Then, as if it wasn’t enough that he just admitted he had committed mortgage fraud, he asked us to refund the money to him since those debts were not his.

A couple of days later, the borrower called back angered at our refusal to return the money to him. He was informed that the file had been turned over to our Claims Department.

Believe it or not, this is not the only reported incident of identity theft. The National Escrow Administrators have received multiple reports of stories just like this one from our operations across the nation. Be aware and be proactive.