US homeowners are literally burning down their homes instead of paying their subprime mortgages. Last year saw a dramatic nationwide jump in apparently debt-motivated arson, the Los Angeles Times reports. “I'm busier now than a one-armed paper hanger,” said one investigator. “What is happening is terrifically economically driven.” So far, the numbers are small, but they have insurers on edge.
Insurers believe some homes destroyed in last fall’s California wildfires were actually cases of opportunistic arson. One industry group said there hasn’t been a spike, but others say that’s just posturing designed to deter copycats. “People upside-down on their house with variable-interest-rate loans … are pretty quick to burn their property right down,” said one fraud investigator.