updated 8/25/2008 6:48:01 PM ET 2008-08-25T22:48:01

Reported incidents of mortgage fraud jumped 42 percent nationwide, with Florida reporting the highest number of cases, according to industry data released Monday.

Properties in the Sunshine State accounted for nearly a quarter of all mortgage fraud incidents, the Mortgage Asset Research Institute said. California ranked second, followed by a three-way tie for third among Illinois, Maryland and Michigan.

The report is based on data submitted by MARI subscribers about loans that were originated in the first quarter of this year and have since been classified as fraudulent.

The most common mortgage fraud cases included misrepresenting income, employment history, and debt and assets. Maryland, for example, had an unusually high percentage — 69 percent — of its cases involved tax return and financial statement misrepresentation.

Mortgage fraud has represented about $1 billion in losses over the past decade, the Mortgage Bankers Association has said.

The increase in reported incidents comes as lenders raise credit standards to curb rising foreclosures. Critics charge the industry for being too lax in qualifying risky borrowers during the boom, which fueled an overheated housing market.

But the stricter requirements have done little to curb fraud.

"Tightening credit standards by itself doesn't eliminate fraud," said Merle Sharick, vice president and national manager of business development for MARI, especially in markets that typically attract a lot of speculators like Florida and California.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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