Mortgage alert: Borrowers change how they cheat

The good news: Fewer borrowers are lying on their mortgage applications. The bad news: The remaining cheaters may be pulling a more dangerous scam. Instead of inflating their home prices, they are now inflating their incomes and assets, according to researchers at CoreLogic.

“There’s no need to inflate the value of the home because home prices are rising,” said CoreLogic’s chief economist Mark Fleming.

But new federal regulations forcing lenders to prove that borrowers can repay their loans has some borrowers shifting the focus of their fraud to their personal balance sheets. Lenders are now scouring financial records, unlike during the recent housing boom, in order to make sure they are complying with new rules, so fraudsters are following suit, jacking up the numbers.

(Read more: Forget easing prices, new homes are up, up, up)

That could be more dangerous to the banks, because jacking up a home price only hurts if the home price falls, but inflating income means the borrowers may not be able to pay the loan no matter what.

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