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The government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme could cause a sharp rise in mortgage fraud, according to one of the most senior policemen tackling economic crime.
The mortgage subsidy programme, the second phase of which started this month, could reignite a crime that has been declining as a result of tighter lending requirements, Detective Superintendent Oliver Shaw of the City of London Police said.
“Mortgage fraud is definitely on my radar,” he told a conference on Thursday. “We’ve seen fewer mortgage frauds recently because banks have been more careful about who they’re lending to but when Help to Buy goes live fully, that’s a huge vulnerability. We’re trying to change everyone’s mindset before it gets to the problem it was in 2009.”
Fraudulent brokers and solicitors were of particular concern, he later told the Financial Times.
The scheme has already been strongly criticised by economists, lenders and even the International Monetary Fund said it risked inflating house prices. These have begun to rise sharply this year, although growth has mainly been concentrated in London.
Mortgage fraud has crept upwards since 2006, according to statistics compiled by Experian. Last year, 38 of 10,000 mortgages were fraudulent, compared with 15 in 10,000 in 2006. Some commentators have attributed the rise to lenders being better at spotting applications that misstate income or poor credit history.
Help To Buy was announced by George Osborne, the chancellor, in this year’s budget. Its first stage offered equity loans of up to 20 per cent of the value of a new property.