"So, on average, every time a house is foreclosed on, that scammer reached into the neighbors' pocket and took $8,600 out of their pockets," said Eric Halperin, director of the Washington office of the Center for Responsible Lending.
"That means there are going to be less property taxes paid, that's less money for schools, less money for fire departments, less money for police departments, and all of those costs are then going to affect the community at large."
The FBI now says mortgage scams are the crime of the moment -- ranking just below terrorism on the federal priority list. On Monday government officials vowed to crack down on real estate fraud.
"Scammers are taking advantage of people in a difficult situation -- people who are trying to modify their home mortgages or those who are trying to avoid foreclosure. We're enforcing the law against these scam artists," Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement Monday. "We're putting others on notice that unless they change their ways, they're next."