The increase in foreclosure and loan modifications has started a new wave of scams that prey on a home owners lack of knowledge regarding foreclosures and some of the new programs for foreclosure prevention.
The US Government Accountability Office reported two main types of foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams: advance-fee loan modification and sales-leaseback schemes. Advance-fee schemes are where someone offers services like negotiating with your mortgage lender for a fee paid upfront. The sale-leaseback scheme is where the scammer talks you in to signing over your deed to them so they can make payments for you while you get caught up but pay them some smaller amount in rent. They will offer to sell the home back to you once you are in a better financial position but often sell the house out from under you or take out other loans on the house.
The Federal Trade Commission reported a new breed of advance-fee scams know as a “forensic mortgage loan audit”. For an upfront fee they offer to find regulatory violations in your mortgage to help you avoid foreclosure or cancel your loan.
It is no doubt that new scams will develop in time so how do you stay safe in this precarious mortgage environment? According to the Federal Trade Commission look for the following red flags:
- Guarantees to stop forclosure process no matter what the circumstance
- Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit / housing counselor
- Collects a fee in advance to providing you services
- Only accepts payment by cashier’s check or wire transfer
- Encourages you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time
- Tells you to make your mortgage payments directly to them, rather than your lender
- Tells you to transfer your property deed or title to them
- Offers to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is not set by the housing market at the time of the sale
- Offers to fill out paperwork for you
- Pressures you to sign paperwork that you have not had the chance to read thouroughly or that you don’t understand
If you need more information or have questions on forclosure alternatives you can always contact a Realtor who can help guide you through the process.