Valuers have key anti-fraud role

The National Fraud Authority has admitted it is hard to detect mortgage fraud. But by spotting the danger signs and using new technology, valuers can quickly alert lenders to suspicious activity

Tough economic times mean mortgage fraud is on the up. The National Fraud Authority predicts that fraud will more than double from £38bn in 2011 to an estimated £73bn this year, so its admission that it has difficulty detecting mortgage fraud is worrying.

A recent Mortgage Strategy article cited a decision by lenders to focus more on fraud prevention, rather than teaming up with the NFA and police to catch perpetrators.
Positive examples of such prevention do exist. For example, a short while ago a block of 12 flats went up for sale. Three lenders received fraudulent mortgage applications for four of the flats, but the fraudsters had made one crucial mistake – they hadn’t banked on the three lenders sending the four instructions to one valuer and Countrywide prevented them from being processed.

So how can valuers contribute and what role does technology play? Valuers act as the eyes and ears for lenders. A valuer is often the only party who will see the property and sometimes the only one who meets the applicant. Sensing all is not as it should be, a valuer can flag this accordingly, but providing evidence to help the lender make the right decision is where technology becomes a silver bullet.

Already, the particulars of the mortgage application, the property in question and comparables are available to valuers through an array of online tools. This means valuers can have a clear view of what they expect to see even before they arrive at the property.

Combine this with mobile data access, such as tablet computers, and all that data becomes easily available to valuers during the inspection. For example, if there is difficulty in confirming the price agreed, the valuer can check that information and alert a lender in the time it takes to send an email.

Other benefits of technology appear after the inspection, when certain information provided in the valuer’s report is run against online tools using databases of past detail.

At this stage, what should be looked at can vary but often concentrates on significant differences in valuation versus past advertised prices or Land Registry information. Recent online rental advertisements for an owner-occupied application would also give cause for concern, as would several recent valuations by different valuers. Incidences are returned to the technical services team and if concerns are still founded when checked out with the valuer, then a flag is raised with the lender.

Valuers using technology to apply a systematic approach stand a much better chance of identifying and preventing fraud. The future of surveying needs valuers to incorporate the vast amounts of data available in-house and online, as well as the real-time intervention and data capture enabled through a mobile workforce.