As the Canadian housing market keeps expanding and changing, the risks and challenges that come with it also grow. Mortgage fraud, unfortunately, is one of those challenges that potential homebuyers must be aware of and learn to protect themselves from. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of mortgage fraud in Canada, exploring what it is, the various types, and how common it is. We’ll also look at the usual perpetrators of mortgage fraud and the legal consequences they face. Lastly, we’ll share some tips to help you safeguard yourself against mortgage fraud. So, let’s get started!
What is mortgage fraud?
Mortgage fraud occurs when someone provides wrong or misleading info to a bank or mortgage lender, tricking them into approving a mortgage loan they wouldn’t typically agree to. This crime can be carried out by individuals wanting to buy a home, real estate professionals, or even organized crime groups. It’s essential to remember that mortgage fraud doesn’t just hurt financial institutions – it can also negatively impact the housing market and unsuspecting homebuyers.
What are the types of mortgage fraud?
Understanding the various types of mortgage fraud can help you recognize and steer clear of potential scams. Some common kinds of mortgage fraud include:
- Income fraud occurs when a borrower provides false or inflated income information on their mortgage application to qualify for a larger loan than they could afford based on their actual income.
- Occupancy fraud: In this type of fraud, the borrower misrepresents their intended use of the property, claiming it will be their primary residence when they plan to rent it or use it as a vacation home.
- Appraisal fraud involves the manipulation of a property’s appraised value, either by providing false information to the appraiser or by the appraiser intentionally over- or under-valuing the property to benefit a party involved in the transaction.
- Identity theft: In this scenario, a fraudster assumes another person’s identity and applies for a mortgage in their name without their knowledge or consent.
- Straw buyer schemes: A straw buyer is someone who applies for a mortgage on behalf of another individual who would not qualify for the loan due to poor credit or other factors. The straw buyer often receives compensation for their involvement in the scheme.
Is mortgage fraud common in Canada?
While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact prevalence of mortgage fraud in Canada, it is a growing concern for financial institutions and law enforcement agencies. The Canadian Bankers Association states that mortgage fraud results in yearly losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. With the housing market continuing to heat up, potential homebuyers need to stay vigilant and informed about mortgage fraud risks.
Who most commonly commits mortgage fraud?
Mortgage fraud can be committed by various parties, from individual homebuyers to real estate professionals and organized crime groups. In some cases, individuals may resort to mortgage fraud out of desperation or real estate professionals and organized crime groups may execute elaborate schemes to profit from mortgage fraud at the expense of innocent homebuyers and financial institutions.
Can you go to jail for mortgage fraud in Canada?
Yes, mortgage fraud is a criminal offence in Canada, and those found guilty can face severe consequences, such as fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. The severity of the punishment depends on the specific details of the case and how much cash is caught up in the fraud. For example, under the Criminal Code of Canada, fraud over $5,000 can result in a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years. In addition to criminal penalties, those involved in a mortgage fraud may also face civil lawsuits from the affected parties, which could result in substantial financial losses.
Ways to protect yourself against mortgage fraud
Now that we’ve covered the basics of mortgage fraud and its consequences let’s explore some tips to help you protect yourself from falling victim to these schemes:
- Be honest on your mortgage application: Always provide accurate and complete information on your mortgage application. Refrain from exaggerating your income, employment history, or other financial details to increase your chances of being approved for a loan. If you are caught providing false information, you could face legal consequences and have your mortgage application denied.
- Verify the credentials of real estate professionals: When working with real estate agents, mortgage brokers, or other professionals involved in the home buying process, always verify their credentials and ensure they are appropriately licensed. Check with your provincial or territorial regulatory authority for a list of licensed professionals in your area.
- Get a professional appraisal: Before purchasing a home, appraise the property by a licensed and reputable appraiser to ensure the value is accurate and in line with market trends. Be cautious of too high or low appraisals, as this could indicate appraisal fraud.
- Guard your personal information: Keep your personal information, such as your Social Insurance Number and financial documents, secure and be cautious about sharing this information with others. Regularly monitor your credit report to check for unfamiliar credit inquiries or unauthorized financial activity, such as opening new accounts without your consent.
- Beware of high-pressure tactics: Be cautious of real estate professionals or sellers who pressure you to make quick decisions or discourage you from seeking professional advice or second opinions. Take your time and do your due diligence before agreeing to any mortgage or real estate transaction.
- Get legal advice: Before signing any mortgage or real estate documents, consider consulting with a real estate lawyer or notary public who can review the documents and ensure your interests are protected.
- Report suspected fraud: If you suspect you have been a victim of mortgage fraud or have encountered a fraudulent scheme, report the incident to your local police department, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and your provincial or territorial regulatory authority.
Stay vigilant and safeguard your financial well-being during the home buying process. By staying informed about mortgage fraud risks and taking the necessary precautions, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim and ensure a smoother home buying experience. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
In conclusion, mortgage fraud is a growing concern in the Canadian housing market, with various parties involved and schemes employed to deceive financial institutions and home buyers. By understanding the nature of mortgage fraud and the potential legal consequences and implementing the tips we’ve provided, you can navigate the homebuying process with greater confidence and security.
Knowledge is power; being well-informed about mortgage fraud and its risks will help you make smarter decisions and protect your financial future. Remember, it’s always better to be cautious and take your time during homebuying. After all, purchasing a home is one of the most significant investments you’ll make, so it’s essential to approach it with care and diligence. Stay safe, and happy home hunting!