Freddie Mac: Our Expert Q&A on Investment Property Schemes

Investor Update
July 20, 2016

Mortgage fraud schemes can be tricky in more ways than one. They prey on a victim’s desire to act on an offer that is too good to be true. And they aren’t all high profile. Some aren’t splashed across the front pages of The New York Times. At least, not yet.
All the more reason for us to share the latest news with our Seller/Servicers so you can stay ahead of the curve and mitigate fraud as soon as you discover it.
Investment property schemes fall into this “on the rise” category. Often spread by word of mouth, which may keep the paper and digital discovery trail to a minimum, they typically involve individuals purchasing multiple investment properties with as little personal investment as possible. The borrower is promised rapid appreciation on the property and the opportunity to flip for a profit at a future date.
In the following frank conversation with Robb Hagberg, Director of Fraud Prevention with Freddie Mac’s Financial Fraud Investigation Unit (FFIU), we explore how to detect, prevent and report investment property schemes.
Q&A with Robb Hagberg
Q: Robb, before we delve into today’s topic, investment property schemes, what can you tell our Freddie Mac customers about the state of mortgage fraud in today’s real estate market?
A: Since the financial crisis, we’ve observed a lengthy cooling down period of mortgage fraud in loan originations. Over the past two years, we’ve seen only mild upticks in activity. But now, old fraud schemes are being dusted off, given a fresh coat of paint and are hitting the market. These include investment property schemes.
Q: What specific factors are making it more conducive for people to commit fraud in today’s market?
A: It’s all about the environment: expanding credit policy, inexperienced home buyers, rapid increases in collateral value and a return of bad actors to the market.
Q: Now on to today’s focus – what should our customers know about investment property fraud?
A: Investment property fraud involves luring inexperienced borrowers into purchasing rehabbed investment real estate with the promise of little or no money down and complete property management. Typical attributes of this scheme will include false down payments, inflated appraised values and refinances of hard money loans that are actually vehicles to create the illusion of equity. These types of schemes have also employed straw buyers.
Q: How did you and the FFIU team discover this rise in investment property fraud?
A: It actually started where it almost always does – a diligent employee who followed escalation processes. Based on a solid tip from our quality control team, FFIU identified what appeared to be an investment property scheme in which inexperienced, out of state buyers were acquiring investment property using a hard money loan and then immediately refinancing. The refinances were then sold to Freddie Mac. Closer inspection of the loans indicated that the appraised values were inflated and that the borrowers put little or no money down on the actual acquisition of the properties. Data analysis showed that this was not an isolated incident. We suspect multiple similar schemes, which appear to follow this pattern, are happening in other locations.
Q: What red flags should Seller/Servicers – and borrowers, too, for that matter – be aware of?
A: Common red flags that we’ve seen:

  • Financing of out of state investment property;
  • Borrowers may be renting their primary residence, but acquiring rental property;
  • Borrowers are financing multiple properties;
  • An appraisal indicates a prior property flip but offers no reasonable rationale for increase in value; 
  • Borrower is refinancing a recently originated purchase loan;
  •  Refinance is paying off what appears to be short-term/hard money financing.

Q: How are the fraudsters able to circumvent the controls this industry has in place to prevent investment property fraud?

A: It’s really a matter of the fraudsters looking for guidance work-arounds and changes. For example, when a lender or investor doesn’t have a seasoning requirement on refinances, they are more vulnerable to purchase as refinance schemes. The fraudsters will rationalize their staging of these transactions by claiming, “it meets your requirements.” But no matter how a lender/investor may write its guidelines, these types of transactions are not what they intended to fund.
Q: What best practices can lenders follow to detect or avoid investment property fraud – and other fraud – schemes?
A: Underwrite prudently and with common sense. Just because a loan file meets the investor’s documentation requirements doesn’t automatically mean the loan is a good risk or a reasonable underwrite. Focus carefully on the documentation in the file and the story it tells about the borrower. Ask yourself: are the collateral and transaction in sync and do they make sense?
Q: What should our customers who want to report fraud or suspected fraud to Freddie Mac do?
A: Don’t hesitate. I would not only encourage our customers, but also remind them that reporting to Freddie Mac is a Single-Family Seller/Servicer Guide requirement. They can refer suspicious activity to Freddie Mac by emailing our fraud mailbox at or by calling (800) 4FRAUD8. They can always give me or another member of the FFIU a call – we love to hear a story!
Q: Thanks, Robb. Any final thought to leave customers with today?
A: It’s time for our industry to get back to the basics. We need to remember what we know about making good credit decisions. That means saying no to bad ones and knowing the counterparties with whom we interact. We are smarter than those who perpetrate fraud and we need to stand strong together in fighting it.

For More Information

  • Read the Single-Family mortgage fraud mitigation best practices document [pdf] and mortgage screening checklist [pdf].
  • Visit the Freddie Mac fraud prevention web page and share our updated resources with appropriate members within your organization.
  • Refer to Single-Family Seller/Servicer Guide Chapters 3100 and 3200 for our complete requirements on fraud prevention, detection and reporting.
  • Contact us immediately if you suspect fraud related to any loans we’re working on together. Call (800) 4FRAUD8 or email Mortgage Fraud Reporting.

Source: Freddie Mac



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.