Don’t Get Caught in a Foreclosure Scam

Watch out for con artists looking to steal your equity

Thanks to today’s economic turmoil, sparked by an ongoing mortgage crisis, a record number of Americans are facing fears of not being able to keep up with mortgage payments on their home. Home foreclosures are at record highs, and many people are desperate to save their homes or get out from under the pressure. Unfortunately, this makes them perfect targets for con artists who run foreclosure scams, promising to help you save your home, but actually stealing your money and/or home equity while doing nothing to prevent your eviction.

A common scam is the foreclosure “rescue” scheme. This usually often begins with a someone promising to pay off your delinquent mortgage, allowing you to stay in the home as a renter with the option to purchase the home back when your financial situation improves. But the so-called rescuer’s real objective is to cash out the equity in your home and disappear. Here are some of the characteristics of this scam:

-As part of the “rescue,” the homeowner will be required to deed the property to a new borrower who is often “investing” in a rental property but is really part of the scam.

-The proceeds of the sale pay off the delinquent loan and the new borrower removes all the equity in the house, never to be seen again.

-The distressed homeowner is now merely a renter in a home they no longer own, unaware that the new borrower is not making payments.

-When the new borrower defaults on the loan, the homeowner is evicted from the home — they have lost the house and all the equity in it.

What are some of the signs of these and other foreclosure scams? They are the same for most schemes to con you out of your money:

-The terms of the deal are complicated and difficult to understand, but you are pressured to trust in the expertise and honorable intentions of your “rescuer” and go along with it anyway.

-You are asked to sign blank documents or documents with incomplete or false information.

-Your rescuer plays on your feelings of victimization, or desperate need for a solution, by harping on the unfairness of your situation. They may even appeal to you based on racial solidarity (They’re just trying to help “our people”) or religious grounds (For example, they want to be “a blessing” to their fellow Christians).

-The rescue is unsolicited, either by mail, e-mail or phone, or a direct approach from a stranger. In other words, you didn’t reach out to them– they found you.

Once again, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The first people you should contact when you think you are in danger of defaulting on your mortgage is your lender. The biggest mistake homeowners make is ducking the lender, as opposed to informing them of potential problems immediately as they arise, to try to work out a solution that will help them keep their homes and maintain their mortgage

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