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Buying fake documents is too easy

Fraud in the mortgage market was in the spotlight last week after edeus revealed how easy it is to obtain fake bank statements, utility bills and payslips.

Edeus applied for documents via website Replicadocs. co.uk to prove an exaggerated income of £200,000 for a junior staff member. For £79.99, it was able to obtain a bank statement, payslip and utility bill (pictured below) which it says could be used fraudulently in mortgage applications.

Alan Cleary, managing director of edeus, says: “I’m amazed this company hasn’t been shut down. It’s obvious these documents are not being used for novelty purposes.”

As reported in the July 2 issue of Mortgage Strategy, Replicadocs.co.uk says mortgage brokers are its biggest customers. It provides bank statements from Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as payslips from the Tax Office and identification from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and British Gas.

The Metropolitan Police says it is working to shut down websites providing fake payslips and bank statements.

A spokeswoman says: “We are undertaking enforcement activities and are also doing preventative work with the government, the financial services industry and Revenue & Customs.”

Replicadocs.co.uk says it is not breaking the law because its terms and conditions state the documents it provides are for novelty purpose only.

But the police can prosecute any person who adapts or supplies fraudulent documents under the Fraud Act. The Identity Act also allows the police to tackle creators of false identity documents as well as those who use them, and the courts can confiscate any assets obtained by fraud.

Fraud prevention service CIFAS last week revealed that financial fraud was nearly 19% up in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2006. Peter Hurst, chief executive of CIFAS, says fraud is at an all-time high.

The Financial Services Authority took a stand against fraud last week by banning broker John Adebayo Adepoju and cancelling the permission of his firm Landmark Finance for knowingly submitting fraudulent financial documents as part of the application process.

Jonathan Phelan, head of retail enforcement at the FSA, says: “Brokers must not submit or assist in the submission of mortgage applications containing false information. We will pursue any allegations that brokers are involved in submitting applications they know to be false. “

But because the FSA does not regulate firms such as Replicadocs.co.uk, it is down to the police to investigate potential illegality. The FSA urges firms to have controls in place to help identify fake documents and says companies should report suspicious transactions to it.

See News: Buying fake documents is too easy

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