The Illinois Coalition of Appraisal Professionals commissioned a study on identity theft and resulting article that has been widely posted on the internet on appraisal sites. Here is a copy [note: pdf]. The letter written by Brian Weaver, a practicing appraiser for over 25 years and worked as an investigator for the Office of Banks and Real Estate in Illinois. He is referring to a problem that is manifested by the state agencies that publish the license numbers of appraisers on the Internet and the appearance of license numbers on all appraisal reports.

This is an excerpt of a letter written by Chip Wagner, IFA, SCRP, ERC’s 2005 Appraisal Foundation Advisory Council Representative to the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council to bring attention to the RAC membership an issue that is affecting the Appraisal Community.

There is an alarming trend of the fraudulent use of appraiser’s license numbers and unscrupulous individuals stealing the name and license or certification number to use on fraudulent appraisal reports. As you can see from the [Brian Weaver] article, over $40 Million in forgery has been uncovered in Illinois, and it is expected that this might be only the tip of the iceberg.

Online appraisal directories, Department of State Web Sites, Appraisal Reports and printed appraiser directories all publish our license numbers. There is no need to disseminate this to the public. Posting categories would replace the need to post numbers since [honest] users of these directories only look to see the license number and often don’t know the classification.

  • Certified General
  • Certified Residential
  • Licensed
  • Trainee

When Chip brought this matter to my attention, my first reaction was “well the Department of State publishes our numbers online for all to see, and most states do the same thing.”

Chip’s response was:

Let me advise you, this is all changing based on the publicity that what is happening in my state is taking place. My state has access to this information password protected now. When I first saw this article on appraiser identity theft, I told my state appraisal board the same thing “this is available on the Appraisal SubCommittee’s website.”

I have been told by my state appraisal director and appraisers on the board that this will be changing because of what is happening in my state.

After thinking about this further, I realized this is a natural extension of identity theft from stolen credit cards and social security numbers. Today, the proliferation of Appraisal Management Companies have virtually eliminated the one on one relationships lenders had with their approved appraisers, in fact 10 years ago, a lender could tell when your signature was forged. Now its a non-issue, they have no idea what your signature looks like.

The first thing to do is remove your license numbers from your own web sites…

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2 Responses to “Appraiser Identity Theft”

  1. patrick mccarthy says:

    You worked for company A on a fee split basis. they have your digital signature on their computer. Now you no longer work there. bank in california sends you a review and says you are now on there banned list. old employer has been signing your name to inflated appraisals. I am currently working with an attorney, bank, and local DA’s office on how to resolve this. like I don’t have enough to do!!

    Beware who has access to your signature!!

  2. Raymond Ellwood says:

    On Nov. 4th, 2005 my supervisor took it upon herself to appraise a property that I had previously appraised on Oct 13, 2005. I refused to do the second appraisal, another staff appraiser refused to do it, and the supervisor herself agreed that the “value isn’t there”. But, apparently she bowed to the pressure and while I was out of the office created a new report and signed it with my digital signature and license #. She chose to not sign it as the supervising appraiser (even though she did on the first report). I immediately resigned and filed a complaint with the State of Ohio Appraiser Board. They are now suing me for breach of contract and for filing the complaint!! To top all of this off she is a licensed USPAP instructor and the company is on the board of The Appraisal Subcommittee! Currently I have three attorneys (at enormous expense), a pending criminal case with the local police dept., as well as an ongoing investigation with the FBI. Everytime they respond to my lawyers (in the discovery phase) they admit to their actions and are doing the FBI’s homework (they keep incriminating themselves!). To all staff appraisers….let this be a warning; and PLEASE keep detailed records in a database that is not in the office. You never know when you may need it! It could prove to be invaluable. Get to know an attorney that is familiar with our industry (there are not many out there). Also, I would recommend that one checks with their state appraiser board and see how many complaints have been filed against your potential employer. The president of this company currently has 5 open complaints against them, the vice-president has 2!