Seekers of the Lost, a not-for-profit telephone service based in Vancouver, Wash., helps people find lost relatives.
It also happens to help weed out mortgage fraud.
"The only thing I know we do is reunite mothers and daughters and kids," said the owner, Steve Schultz. "We are not bill collectors."
But Tena Cos., which provides quality-control services to lenders, uses the Seekers service to verify addresses of mortgage applicants.
Mortgage applicants often fudge basic information such as income, credit standing, income-tax documents, and even their address.
Basic Search Costs $59
The Seekers service uses compact-disk directories such as "Phone Disk US Residential" to search for lost relatives by name, city, street, address, or telephone number. Each search of two different names costs $59.
Nancy Monson, executive officer in charge of auditing at Shoreview, Minn.-based Tena, said the use of "Seekers of the Lost" was part of a move toward automation by quality-control companies. She said automation would continue to cut down costs of quality control and fraud investigation.
Tena uses more than 25 sources of data base information, including listings from offices of Secretaries of State, to find undisclosed self-employment.
Industry Demand Is High
Demand for high-tech quality control remains high in the mortgage business.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as much as 10% of mortgage applications contain fraudulent information. And Dick Ward, president of Guarantee Asset Protection System, Canoga Park, Calif., "conservatively" estimates that lenders lost $50 billion to fraud last year.
Mr. Shultz said Seekers offers another possible mortgage fraud-buster: the Social Security Death Index. He said it can find if a person is dead by using Social Security card information with only a first name and a date of birth.