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Posts Tagged ‘Identity Theft’

[Sounding Bored] A Case Of Misleading Identity

May 7, 2008 | 9:39 pm | Columns |

Sounding Bored is my semi-regular column on the state of the appraisal profession. This week I find out someone was pretending to be me.

Since last summer, the work from retail banks slowed as the credit markets unraveled, yet our firm is doing better than we were a year ago and since the first of the year, even better. Why?

Divorce, litigation, estate and other legal support services are booming right now. Apparently money was the glue that held many relationships together.

A little economic hardship and voila! Appraisal services are in demand.

We were recently involved in a divorce case where my firm was hired as an expert for the apartment occupant. The other party knew we were hired and I assume when we were scheduled to inspect the apartment.

Apparently another appraiser scheduled and inspected the apartment before us, representing that they were from my firm, Miller Samuel. It was later confirmed that this appraiser was working for the adversary. That’s really an unprofessional (translation: a slimebag) move.

I have the name and can’t wait to meet this person at the next appraiser function. Because this is all second hand, I’ll reserve the right to file a complaint with the state and the appropriate appraisal organization until after I am able to confirm what happened.

Why do professionals insist on acting so unprofessionally? Are we our own worse enemy?

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Chameleon-like Criminals Are Stealing Appraisers Identities With Little Risk

December 14, 2005 | 9:29 am |

In the David Jackson article, [Crooked appraisers fuel scams: Stolen identities used in mortgage swindles [Chicago Tribune]](,1,1579422.story?coll=chi-business-hed) he reports of a loose network of appraisers who steal the identities of honest appraisers and sign off on millions of dollars of fraudulent appraisals.

It used to be that an appraiser’s identity might have been stolen and used hundreds of times. Now with many of the appraiser databases on the internet and their license numbers in the public domain, its not that hard to assume an identity, especially in a mortgage environment where much less attention is paid to underwriting than in years past.

On top of this, there is virtually no enforcement. This article indicates that the State of Illinois had one appraiser on staff and he recently retired. Most states have no more than a few staff members to handle thousands of complaints.

There are many appraisers have not only their license # on their business card, email signatures and stationary but scanned images of their license on their web site. [Take a look! [Google]](

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In Texas, Privacy Was Not A Pretty Picture

August 31, 2005 | 10:07 pm |

[When a number of the 254 Texas tax appraisal districts began to post photos of private homes on their web sites, thats when the trouble began. [Note: Reg.]]( The practice was designed to help appraisers and better inform homeowners when protesting their taxes. The photos were taken from the public street and were not of the homes interiors. Some districts posted floorplans as well. [Effective September 1, 2005, all such content is to be removed.](

After much turmoil, [the Texas Legislature passed](, [and the Governor signed](, the appraisal photo bill:

SB 541 amends the Texas Tax Code to protect the confidentiality of photographs and floor plans of homes or property. These photographs and floor plans will remain available for the official use of the appraisal district, the state, the comptroller, taxing units and political subdivisions, but will be exempt from Open Records Requests from the public.

This is fascinating because this law showed how far the window on privacy could be pushed. Many of the largest properties in the survey were not revealing because they simply showed the front gate or the trees that blocked the property. Advocates for the bill were concerned that floor plans and photos made it easier for stalkers and burglers.

New York City had done the same thing in the 1980’s but the photos were not in the public domain because the internet was not readily accessible to the public in its present form.

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Selling a house they didn’t own

August 10, 2005 | 9:17 am |

2 sentenced for real estate scheme

In this case, its sounds like the appraiser was duped, but it is a scary thought. It makes for a good argument to get the sales contract on your transactions (besides other obvious reasons, like understanding the terms of the sale). We match up the seller with public record.

I am amazed how many real estate brokers have said to us that we are the first firm to actually ask for a copy of the contract.

Its a USPAP standard as part of the appraisal licensing requirement [i-2e(iv)]

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Appraiser Identity Theft

July 29, 2005 | 11:15 pm |

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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