Commentary by Ralph R. Roberts
RISMEDIA, March 14, 2008-Over the past decade, fraud has somehow become stitched into the very fabric of American culture. It used to be just a handful of politicians, a few CEOs, and the usual suspects – career con artists. Nowadays, everybody’s doing it, and that’s a big part of the problem. When fraud becomes the norm, rather than the exception, more and more people manage to convince themselves that nothing’s wrong with it.
Take cash back at closing-one of the most rampant forms of real estate and mortgage fraud. Not so long ago, when you bought a home, you wanted to put as much money down as you could and finance as little as possible. Drowning in debt was considered something bad, not to mention painful.
Now, seemingly overnight, people want to borrow as much as they possibly can to buy a home – even going so far as to borrowing in excess of the property’s true market value, so they can cash out the surplus at closing: “Hey, everybody’s doing it, so it must be okay, right? Why not borrow and extra $10,000 or $50,000. My cousins Ed and Ellen did it, and have a nice new sports car to show for it. Besides, I’m really not hurting anyone. The seller gets to sell his house, the agent gets a bigger commission, the loan officer gets a bigger chunk of cash, and even the government and insurance company earn more. Everybody wins, and they have me to thank for it.”
In America, justifying fraudulent transactions has become a weekend pastime. If you refuse to go along and benefit from the fraud, you’re looked upon as the neighborhood party pooper – a stooge who chose to look the gift horse in the mouth. And if you report the fraud, watch out! You’re liable to lose your job, your friends, your colleagues, and even your reputation. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen whistleblowers become pariahs of the real estate industry almost overnight.
To fix the problem, we need to address the fundamental underlying issues that lead to fraud, and one of those issues is the eroding of morality and ethics in America.
Business owners and team leaders know that they set the example that their staff and team members follow. Like trickle-down economics, fraud also trickles down. The leaders set the tone and moral compass for everyone else. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of our leaders lose their own moral compass. We see professional football coaches breaking the rules by spying on other teams. We see college recruiters bend and break recruitment policies. We see CEOs scoring quick cash and then bailing out with their platinum parachutes. We see lobbyists running our government.
And so many seem to follow like lemmings.
Each and every one of us needs to stand up against fraud and the fraudsters and put an end to it. Otherwise, we will all fall victim to these “victimless” white collar crimes.
Ralph Roberts is a real estate fraud expert and activist and co-author of “Protect Yourself from Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud: Preserving the American Dream of Homeownership” (Kaplan) and “Mortgage Myths: 77 Secrets That Will Save You Thousands on Home Financing.” Visit www.FlippingFrenzy.com or contact Ralph at RalphRoberts@ralphroberts.com or 586.751.0000.