On July 31, the National Bar Association held a panel to discuss the impact of the foreclosure crisis on communities of color at its 86th annual convention and exhibits. Black Enterprise spoke with two of the panelists—Yolanda D. McGill, senior counsel of the Fair Housing and Lending Project with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Vicki King Taitano, director of the Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project with the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau—to get their thoughts on this growing problem. McGill noted the rise of scammers as one. “The overrepresentation of minorities in our scam database is very troubling and likely has many causes, such as the wealth gap that leaves struggling homeowners no savings or family funds to lean on and drives them to seek foreclosure rescue and modifications more often,” she says. “We also know that scammers tailor their marketing language to ethnic minorities, and there are organizations trying to determine if this activity is in violation of the law.” With that in mind, here are five signs of a foreclosure rescue scam. —Sheiresa Ngo
1. The company requests a fee before providing a service. To combat such scams an advanced fee ban under the Federal Trade Commission’s Mortgage Relief Services Rule has been put in place to prevent distressed homeowners from being taken advantage of.
2. You’re pressured to sign papers that you don’t understand or haven’t had an opportunity to read completely. Always take your time to read documents. Don’t do business with a company that discourages you from reading everything thoroughly. As a rule of thumb, consider legal assistance if you need help interpreting complicated forms. Never rush through important documents. “I think people need lawyers. And I hope attorneys will volunteer or take more cases and represent people in mediations and foreclosures because when people are represented I think they do much better, says Taitano.
3. The company tells you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit or housing counselor. This indicates they most likely have something to hide—don’t let it be your money.
5. The company guarantees it can stop the foreclosure process no matter what the circumstances. If they claim they can help anyone, regardless of the situation, you should be suspicious
If you believe you have been victimized by a foreclosure rescue company, report it immediately. Visit PreventLoanScams.org or call the Homeownership Preservation Foundation at 888-995-HOPE.