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The number of reports of suspected mortgage fraud in America rose by 5% last year, to a record annual high, according to the Treasury Department. But a new study by the LexisNexis Mortgage Asset Research Institute, which collects its own data on mortgage fraud, claims that cases of “verified, material misrepresentation” in the mortgage origination process fell by 41% over the same period.

A stricter definition of fraud explains some of the difference with the Treasury’s figures, as does a general decline in mortgage lending, LexisNexis says. More worryingly, the company notes that “fraud has become more complex and harder to verify using traditional methods.” More than 90% of the fraud submissions received in 2010 dealt with loans written in prior years; with time, more fraud perpetrated in 2010 will likely come to light. Among the cases reported to LexisNexis last year, Florida saw three times as many submissions as its share of the national mortgage market. Fraud volume in New York and California was more than twice those states’ share of overall mortgage originations.

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A series of tough measures, accompanied by equally tough talk, have made it clear that Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer is determined to prevent a crisis in Israel’s property market.

Israel’s latest directive imposing restrictions on the mortgage market was issued by its newly-appointed banking sector regulator, David Zaken, on April 28th and took effect on May 5th. It restricts the share of mortgages with adjustable rates that change at least once every five years to one-third of total lending. This restriction applies to all forms of financing in use in Israel, namely shekel floating-rate mortgages, loans linked to the consumer price index and loans linked to exchange rates (generally the shekel versus the dollar). According to the latest central bank data, these three channels comprise 48%, 32% and 6%, respectively, of total mortgage borrowing.

Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Pre-emptive strike” (May 6th)

A series of big, bold charts accompanies the latest report on consumer debt in the US by the New York Fed (via Alea, also discussed here). The report contains plenty of interesting data about the ongoing deleveraging of American households. As of the end of September, total indebtedness is down by 7.4% from its peak value two years earlier. The distaste for new debt is underscored by trends in mortgage originations, which are running at 50% of their 2003-07 average, and credit cards, which have seen a net 120m accounts—one hundred and twenty million—closed since mid-2008.

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