Morris Massre's Blog

Thoughts on South Florida Realty and the Planet in General

If it’s too good to be true, don’t do it

Homeowners facing foreclosure are prime targets for scam artists. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission identified 71 companies running suspicious foreclosure rescue ads, and the Better Business Bureau counts foreclosure rescue rip-offs among its top 10 scams. Understanding how these scams work can help you avoid becoming a victim.

The variations are seemingly endless, but one popular foreclosure scam involves a representative of a so-called foreclosure rescue company promising to negotiate a deal with your lender. The rep, vowing to take care of everything, will instruct you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor during the supposed negotiations. The more brazen ones will even tell you to pay your mortgage directly to them.

Once you pay an upfront fee or hand over a few months’ worth of mortgage payments, the scam artist will disappear. You’ll be left with an emptier wallet and a mortgage that’s in even deeper trouble because no deal was cut and no payments were made on your behalf. According to John Riggins, chief executive of the Fort Worth, Texas, office of the Better Business Bureau, upfront fees can range from $500 to $5,000.

Rip-offs come in many forms

A bankruptcy foreclosure scam can involve a promise to fend off foreclosure in exchange for an upfront fee. Instead of getting you legitimate relief, the fraudster will pocket the fee and secretly file a bankruptcy case in your name. The scam may seem to work initially, because a bankruptcy filing will stop foreclosure proceedings temporarily, but they’ll resume. Compounding your problems, a bankruptcy can mar your credit report for 10 years.

Another common scam, called the bait-and-switch, results in a scam artist taking ownership of your home. You sign documents supposedly for a new loan that will make your mortgage current. What’s really happening is you’re signing over the deed of your house. In this scenario you would still owe on your mortgage but no longer own the home.

In a rent-to-own scheme, you’re told to surrender a home’s deed as part of a deal that lets you stay put as a renter. The scam artist, perhaps claiming to be able to refinance at a better rate with you off the title, promises to sell the house back to you in the future. However, terms of the deal may make it all but impossible for you to repurchase the home, or the scammer may get you evicted by raising the rent beyond your means. Either way, you end up losing the home while remaining on the hook for the unpaid mortgage.

Look out for red flags

Being aware of the warnings signs can protect you from foreclosure rescue scams. Red flags (http://www.loanscamalert.org/things-you-should-know.aspx) include:

·Demands for high upfront fees.

·Guarantees to stop a foreclosure.

·Instructions to make mortgage payments to someone other than your lender.

•Pressure to sign over a deed.

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