A couple of nights ago, as I was pulling into my driveway after work, I noticed a package on my doorstep. I made a mental note to make my way to the front door at some point to grab it. However, after closing the garage, coming in and taking off my shoes, letting the dog out, letting the dog in, answering a phone call, checking on a listing, and responding to an offer, my mental note took flight. I went to bed without taking the package off the front doorstep. The next morning, as I was driving away, I noticed it again. I sent a text to my daughter to grab it before leaving for school. She forgot. Last night, I returned home to find the package was still there. This time, I went straight to the front door and brought it in.

I was lucky, especially at this time of year, to have a package sit on my doorstep for days without being stolen. ‘Tis the season for porch pirates. They are coming out in droves.

Fortunately, with the advent of security cameras and GPS trackers, these thieves are more easily detected and can be held accountable for their crimes. Unfortunately, not all crimes are as easy to identify. Mortgage fraud, for example, is one of these crimes that is more difficult to detect and, sadly, although more difficult to perpetrate than it used to be, is still prevalent.

Frankly, whether I lack the ambition or the brains, I’ve always thought it easier to make my living by legal means. Plus, I have to be able to sleep at night, or at least, if I’m not sleeping, not have it be my conscience that is keeping me awake. At the same time, however, I also must be sure that I can recognize fraud when I see it; as a result, as ugly as it is, I need to know what it looks like.

My first experience with attempted loan fraud happened a few years ago. I had been given a referral from a past client to help a family member who was moving here from out of state. I contacted them and put them in touch with a trusted lender. The lender had them fill out an online application and set up an appointment to meet with them in person to gather their paperwork when they arrived here to begin looking.

It didn’t take long before we found a home and got an offer accepted. They met with the lender and turned in their required paperwork. In this case, one tiny white lie began to spin out of control. There was Wite-Out — that’s right, the white-colored office product correction fluid — on this guy’s W-2s. He actually wrote in the income amount on his W-2, which did not happen to correspond with what he actually made. When the call was made to verify, his previous boss (which was also news to us, since he stated that he was still employed there) stated that he had been asked to lie for this employee too many times, and he wasn’t going to do it. Amen brother! My client, who was no longer my client, was pretty outraged at all of us for insisting on doing things legally. I had no problem cutting ties with this dude.

Mortgage fraud can be perpetrated by an individual, a group, or a company. Anyone who takes money from a lending institution, collateralized by real estate, using inaccurate or false information is committing mortgage fraud.

Last week, I was approached by a lender who had prequalified a client of mine. This was not a lender or an institution I was familiar with, but my client had told me they had come highly recommended to her. We were under contract on a home and were well into the process. I had been contacting this lender throughout the process to verify that things were going according to schedule. She assured me things were going swimmingly.

Imagine my surprise when she called me last week, two days before our scheduled closing date, to inform me that my client actually didn’t qualify. After going quite feral on her, about how in the world she allowed it to get this far, she told me she thought she could fix this. She told me she would get back to me in a few hours.

I fumed through the rest of the day, anxiously awaiting her call. My client either qualified, or she didn’t. How do you “fix” that?

When she called back, she asked me to hold for a minute while she walked outside of her office. She then proceeded to tell me how she could “fix” this so that my client did qualify. She assured me that no one would find out and that I just needed to “talk my client into doing this.” I assured her that neither myself or my client would be “doing this” and that she had crossed a line she shouldn’t have crossed.

Keep your eyes open this holiday season. Don’t let your packages sit on your proverbial doorstep. They can take my toilet paper, but they aren’t taking anything else. A trusted Realtor can be your security tracker in this process, and it’s worth the investment.

Jen Kirchhoefer is an associate broker and realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jenkirchh@gmail.com.

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