You have worked hard your whole life. You have paid off your house. Retirement looks comfortable and you are thinking of using some of your home equity to buy a second home. You go to the bank to apply for your loan and the loan officer cannot seem to confirm that you actually own your home. In addition, the tax records reveal someone else not only owns the home you have lived in all of these years but that they have taken out a large mortgage against the house. Suddenly, your net worth has dropped by thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands.

According to a May 2005 FBI report on financial crimes, lenders had reported to the FBI 17,000 suspected incidents of mortgage fraud. In one such case, called “Operation Whose House” by the US State Department, $10,000,000 in mortgage loans were made using public property records that did not accurately reflect the true ownership of the properties bought and sold