Scam artists look and act just like the rest of us. They may be just a little more charming, friendly, likeable but beware they’re ruthless!
The current wave of foreclosures swamping the nation has been increasing at an alarming rate. March 2008 marks the 27th straight month of rising national foreclosure filings. Foreclosure scams are also on the rise with the callous eagerly waiting to prey on the elderly, the unenlightened, and the desperate.
Scam artists are dependant upon the borrower knowing little of the foreclosure process for their scam to work and want to keep homeowners in the dark about their legal rights and the alternatives they might have to save their home.
A report by the National Consumer Law Center points out that these scams all boil down to two main forms:
The first comes in the form of the “foreclosure consultant” who asks for a hefty up-front fee and assures the homeowner of a refinance of the loan or a delay of the foreclosure will be arranged. The “foreclosure consultant” then does nothing, costing the borrower crucial time and money besides.
Second, the “foreclosure rescuer” takes title to the property in a sale/leaseback arrangement. The homeowner signs the home over to a third party agreeing to make rent payments in the belief that their home is going to be saved. Eventually the homeowner loses the home to the supposed savior along with any “rent” money paid.
How do these supposed defenders of the despairing make contact? Foreclosure notices are public record so as soon as the first Notice of Default is printed in the newspaper your mailbox is inundated with offers of assistance. Some rescuers prefer to meet initially face-to-face and knock on your door but no matter how initial contact is made it’s important to guard against anyone who advertises their services as “foreclosure services” or offers “fast cash”.
To help ensure your safety the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides listings by state of HUD approved Housing Counseling Agencies. You may contact HUD by calling at 1-800-569-4287 or on the web at http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm to acquire a list of non-profit agencies in your area.
Before considering the use of any non-approved “foreclosure service” first verify that the individual or company is listed with the Better Business Bureau, Department of Corporations, Department of Real Estate or the corresponding agency within your state.
If you do decide to deal with a foreclosure adviser these pointers may be of some help.
Do not respond to demands for money before services have been rendered. Most states make it illegal for a “foreclosure consultant” to ask for an up-front fee. All contracted services should be completed before any money changes hands. A scam artist will ask for a fee up front and then do nothing to help you save your home.
Don’t sign a Quit Claim Deed or Deed of Trust giving title in whole or part to a third party as in a “rent” or “sale/leaseback” scam. Although you may be able to avoid a foreclosure showing up on your credit report by giving the lender a deed in lieu of foreclosure, giving title to your home to a third party does not necessarily relieve you of your legal obligation. In many cases the hidden clauses in any paperwork may cost you your home after all.
Don’t be pressured into signing a contract or incomplete document regarding your home without reading and understanding it beforehand.
It’s very convenient for contract pages to end before allowing room for signature lines. The signature line then appears at the bottom of another blank page making it easy to attach it to another document. The paperwork presented by the scam artist often tends to be very complex and complicated making it easy to hide critical phrases and conditions allowing them to defraud the signer.
Another fraudulent technique scam artists use is to present you with stacks of paperwork and, of course, they don’t sit there and explain anything to you.
Safeguard yourself and your home against loss to a foreclosure scam!