One question that is on many people’s minds today is how to avoid foreclosure rescue scams. They’re out there, looking for homeowners in distress, hoping to take advantage of these desperate homeowners who find themselves behind on their mortgage. In this article we’ll look at some of the tactics these companies use and how to avoid these scammers.
Foreclosure rescue firms have many different ways to find potential clients. Some of them simply check local foreclosure listings in local legal announcement newspapers or directly access public records at local government offices. These rescue firms will often send very well crafted personal looking letters to desperate homeowners. Other foreclosure firms cast a wide net and use Internet advertising, TV spots, newspaper ads and even fliers. No matter the method used the advertising typically features a simple message like “Stop Foreclosure” or “Save Your Home” and will be rather spotty on the details. Legitimate financial counselors don’t advertise this way in most cases.
Some will tell you that they can guarantee you that they can stop your foreclosure. Well, they can’t. This is entirely up to the lender, especially once the foreclosure legal procedure has begun. No legit housing counselor will make such a guarantee to you. Some of these foreclosure rescue firms tout that they have special business relationships with banks and mortgage lenders that will allow them to ‘fast track’ mortgage loan modification. Often, this isn’t true and, anyway, lenders will refuse to negotiate with third parties unless they’re a practicing attorney or a HUD certified housing counselor. Remember negotiating a loan modification or a short sale is a long and complex process and anyone who’s promising quick results isn’t being truthful with you.
One thing that these foreclosure rescue scammers will tell you to do is to not contact your lawyer and not to speak with the lender. This is a classic con job tactic that’s meant to keep you from communicating with people who might expose the scam to you. You should be suspicious of firms who request a fee before providing you with services. Even worse are those who ask for wire transfer payments or tell you to send your house payments to them rather than to the lender. Those who operate in person will try to pressure you into signing paperwork without explaining it. As we’ll see in a moment, this is particularly dangerous.
Perhaps the most common con is that of a fake housing counselor. These tricksters will tell you that they can save your house from foreclosure if you’ll only pay them an upfront fee roughly the same as your mortgage payment. They’ll pass themselves off as having great negotiation skills and special connections with your lender. They’ll also tell you not to contact anyone else about this special deal in order to keep it secret. As you can guess, the conman runs off with your money.
Another foreclosure rescue con that they’ll pull is to offer to get you into a new home loan that will pay off your existing mortgage loan or simply bring it current. In this case, the unwitting homeowner signs a document that turns over the house title to the scammer. They do this by pressuring you into signing quickly or by presenting you with overwhelming paperwork. The really sad part is that many victims don’t realize they’ve been conned until the sheriff shows up with an eviction notice.
Another trick that foreclosure rescue scammers pull that’s more legal but still very sneaky is a rental scheme. In this scamming technique they offer to buy your home and then allow you to stay in it as a renter and buy it back over time. They’ll say that once you’re released from the burden of the original mortgage it will be easy for you to get a new loan to repurchase the home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. Sometimes the conman just cashes out the equity and defaults on the loan, resulting in the mortgage company evicting the renter, the previous homeowner. Another way this works is for the scammer to keep raising the rent until the original homeowner can’t pay and is evicted. Sadly, this process, although highly unethical, is legal in most states.
A similar ‘sign over the deed’ trick is a buy out-move out con. In this scam the homeowner is told that a ‘white knight’ financier will buy the house from them and hold it until it sells for a profit. They’ll tell the owner to transfer the title to the house and that they will need to move out so that they can ‘flip’ the house easier. When the house sells at a profit, they promise to share the profits with the original homeowner. But, what usually happens is that the scammer simply rents out the home and pockets the money, letting the house fall into to foreclosure under the owner’s name. This creates an ugly surprise for the homeowner, because they’re still responsible for the mortgage, and for the unsuspecting renter as well.
The last foreclosure rescue scam we’ll look at is the unauthorized bankruptcy. In this paperwork shuffle con, the homeowner signs a document allowing the scammer to file bankruptcy on them. This is usually done in the guise of an offer to renegotiate the home loan with the lender or to get refinancing. This is always accompanied by an upfront fee. While bankruptcy will stop the foreclosure, at least temporarily, it does have considerable legal and financial repercussions that can be quite difficult to deal with.
Be wary of these foreclosure rescue scams and protect your financial future.