Mortgage fraud up 276%: How you can avoid being a victim

There is something about human nature that when times get tough, crooks get more bold. Such is the case with mortgage-related fraud.

The FBI is reporting that there is an estimated 276% leap in mortgage-related fraud cases over last year. The agency is keeping tabs on more than 174,000 new cases from coast to coast -- though California, Arizona, Michigan and Nevada seem to be among the most hard hit areas.

"From foreclosure frauds to subprime shenanigans," says the FBI website, "mortgage fraud is a growing crime threat that is hurting homeowners, businesses, and the national economy."