Monday, February 14, 2011

New York to Use Computer Program to Identify Possibly Illegal Real Estate Activities

Under the system, devised by the mayor’s Financial Crime Task Force, a computer program will search the public property database for “digital fingerprints,” or red flags, of possibly illegal real estate activities. Such "red flags" could be multiple changes in title ownership, or flipping; the transfer of titles at below-market prices; and the sale of properties at prices beneath the minimum amount required for tax filings. The task force will give the flagged addresses to district attorney’s offices, the Police Department, and the Department of Investigation. The program is modeled after an initiative used by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to sift through data for evidence of money laundering. Property owners’ characteristics, like their age and immigration status, will also be taken into account in identifying potentially troubled properties. Officials said those who committed mortgage fraud often preyed on elderly and immigrant property owners because of their increased vulnerabilities and talk them into taking out fraudulent mortgages they do not need or transfer their properties using forged or false documents." (New York Times, February 3, 2011:A22, )