This week’s Golden Horseshoe goes to the Small Business Administration for millions in Paycheck Protection Program loans it issued to fraudsters who used the money to purchase luxury homes, high-priced jewelry and expensive cars, including a Bentley and two Lamborghinis, according to a watchdog report.
The Paycheck Protection Program had the highest percentage of cases of criminal activity of all the pandemic relief programs, according to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee’s recent Semiannual Report to Congress.
“A total of 14 OIGs have indictments/complaints, arrests, and/or convictions from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021, related to the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic response,” PRAC reported.
When Jeff, a retired marketing consultant from Chicago, was closing on his home sale, he received a new set of instructions at the last minute on where to send several thousand dollars in closing expenses. At first blush, the email looked legit with an official-looking logo and professional language specifying the amount owed and itemized expenses. But one thing caught his eye: The email address looked strange. Just to be safe, he called his mortgage broker.
“Don’t do that!” his broker told him in an alarmed voice. It was a scam. If he hit “send,” his closing fees would go to a thief who had been monitoring his emails. “I was a keystroke away from losing thousands of dollars,” Jeff recalled.
As the housing market sizzles across the country – with nearly 6 million homes bought last year – scammers have been finding new ways to tap into this once-secure market. Real estate transactions still demand reams of paperwork and regulations involving lawyers, brokers, title insurance companies and banks, but the fact that much of this work now takes place online gives thieves countless opportunities to exploit vulnerable buyers. Last year, more than 11,000 homeowners were scammed out of more than $220 million in closing funds alone, according to the American Land and Title Association, a trade group that represents professionals who perform property transactions.
Massive government spending has decreased the value of the American dollar and triggered increased consumer prices, which economic experts said will only get worse.
Americans will continue to see higher prices across the board, from food and gasoline to home appliances and cars, as the federal government continues to propose more stimulus into the economy without an adequate plan to pay for it, according to several experts. Even if the government doesn’t pass legislation increasing taxes, higher prices ultimately amount to an “inflation tax,” some of the experts said.
“Over the past few months, we have seen an inflation rate that is much higher than where we’ve become accustomed to,” Heritage Foundation research fellow Joel Griffith told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “When we are going to the grocery store, going to the gas station, building our new home, we’re noticing that prices are really accelerating at a much faster clip than what we’re used to.”
Housing inventory in the U.S. remains significantly low, driving a white-hot market in which buyers continue to resort to aggressive buying tactics such as inspection-free transfers and hugely inflated offering prices.
Data from the Federal Reserve show housing inventory began declining last summer before dropping sharply in October. From over 1,550,000 units in May of last year, the Fed says stock has dropped to just above 1,000,000.