Rising foreclosure rates have led to an increase in scam artists offering to aid homeowners in financial straits. They typically promise to help save the homes of people facing foreclosure, but will strip away the value of the home with no benefit for the homeowner.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling advises homeowners to proceed with caution if an individual or company:
- Calls itself a “mortgage consultant” or “foreclosure service.”
- Contacts people whose homes are listed for foreclosure, including anyone who uses flyers or solicits for business door-to-door, by phone or email.
- Encourages you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time.
- Collects a fee before providing any services to you.
- Instructs you to cease all contact with your lender, credit or housing counselors, lawyer or other legitimate experts.
- Tells you to make your mortgage payments directly to him or his company (not the lender).
- Requires that you transfer your property deed or title to him or his company.
- Makes a promise that seems too good to be true, for example, instant cash with “no strings attached.”
- Tells you that as part of the deal you will need to move out of your house for some period of time for remodeling or other reasons.
- Offers to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is not set by the housing market at the time of sale.
What should a homeowner never do?
- Don’t be pressured to sign a contract. Take your time to review all documents thoroughly, preferably with a lawyer who is representing your interests only.
- Don’t send or give your mortgage payments to someone other than your lender, even if he promises to make the payments for you.
- Don’t sign away ownership of your house to anyone without advice from a credit or housing counselor or lawyer.
- Don’t rely on verbal agreements. They mean nothing. Get all promises in writing and keep copies of all documents, especially those you sign.
- Don’t sign anything containing blank lines or spaces. Scammers can add information later without your knowledge or approval.
- If you do not speak English, use your own translator. Don’t depend on someone who is provided by the “rescuer.”
- Don’t fall for promises often used to lure homeowners such as claims to save your credit rating, promises of instant cash, guarantees that a buyer will be found within a certain number of days, help in filing for bankruptcy to “stop the foreclosure” and offers of free rent or gifts.
For more information, visit www.HousingHelpNow.org.