Fraudulent mortgage satisfaction schemes are back
We have heard recently that a group is engaging in a scheme to fraudulent satisfy mortgages (or deeds of trust) in California and Florida. We all know that trends in California and Florida eventually make it to South Carolina, so I wanted to make sure South Carolina dirt lawyers are aware of this scheme. This is not a new scheme, but we thought it had died down until we got this news last month.
Here are some good rules of thumb to assist you in avoiding losses and protect clients in this area:
- Have your title examiners provide you with copies of mortgage satisfactions and releases. Two sets of eyes reviewing the documents should help with spotting issues.
- Pay particular attention to satisfactions and releases within a year of your closings. The normal schemes involve satisfying mortgages in order to collect funds at subsequent closings.
- Pay particular attention to satisfactions and releases that are not connected with a sale or refinance. Contact the lender for confirmation that the loan has been paid in full.
- Don’t accept a satisfaction or release directly from a seller, buyer or third party without contacting the lender for confirmation that the loan has been paid in full.
- Many of the fraudulent documents are being executed by an unauthorized party on behalf of MERS. Compare MERS satisfactions with others you have seen in connection with your closings.
- Check spellings and compare signatures against those of genuine instruments.
- Be wary of hand-written documents, unorthodox documents, cross-outs, insertions and multiple fonts.
The perpetrators of this fraud are sophisticated and will change aspects of the scheme as needed, so remain vigilant and discuss any suspected fraudulent documents with your title insurance underwriter.