6 Signs of a Mortgage Rescue Scam

Dec 13, 09 • Money & Finance

Beware of Mortgage Scams

Beware of Mortgage Scams


Fraudulent foreclosure “rescue” professionals use half truths and outright lies to sell services that promise relief and then fail to deliver.

Foreclosure rescue firms use a variety of tactics to find homeowners in distress:  Some sift through public foreclosure notices in newspapers and on the Internet or through public files at local government offices, and then send personalized letters to homeowners. Others take a broader approach through ads on the Internet, on television, or in the newspaper, posters on telephone poles, median strips and at bus stops, or flyers or business cards at your front door. The scam artists use simple and straight-forward messages, like:

“Stop Foreclosure Now!”

“We guarantee to stop your foreclosure.”

“Keep Your Home. We know your home is scheduled to be sold. No Problem!”

“We have special relationships within many banks that can speed up case approvals.”

“We Can Save Your Home. Guaranteed. Free Consultation”

“We stop foreclosures everyday. Our team of professionals can stop yours this week!”

Once they have your attention, they use a variety of tactics to get your money:

Phony Counseling or Phantom Help

The scam artist tells you that he can negotiate a deal with your lender to save your house if you pay a fee first. You may be told not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor, and to let the scam artist handle all the details. Once you pay the fee, the scam artist takes off with your money.

Sometimes, the scam artist insists that you make all mortgage payments directly to him while he negotiates with the lender. In this instance, the scammer may collect a few months of payments before disappearing.

Bait-and-Switch

You think you’re signing documents for a new loan to make your existing mortgage current. This is a trick:  You’ve signed documents that surrender the title of your house to the scam artist in exchange for a “rescue” loan.

Rent-to-Buy Scheme

You’re told to surrender the title as part of a deal that allows you to remain in your home as a renter, and to buy it back during the next few years. You may be told that surrendering the title will permit a borrower with a better credit rating to secure new financing – and prevent the loss of the home. But the terms of these deals usually are so burdensome that buying back your home becomes impossible. You lose the home, and the scam artist walks off with all or most of your home’s equity. Worse yet, when the new borrower defaults on the loan, you’re evicted.

In a variation, the scam artist raises the rent over time to the point that the former homeowner can’t afford it. After missing several rent payments, the renter – the former homeowner – is evicted, leaving the “rescuer” free to sell the house.

In a similar equity-skimming situation, the scam artist offers to find a buyer for your home, but only if you sign over the deed and move out. The scam artist promises to pay you a portion of the profit when the home sells. Once you transfer the deed, the scam artist simply rents out the home and pockets the proceeds while your lender proceeds with the foreclosure. In the end, you lose your home – and you’re still responsible for the unpaid mortgage. That’s because transferring the deed does nothing to transfer your mortgage obligation.

Fraudulent foreclosure “rescue” professionals use half truths and outright lies to sell services that promise relief and then fail to deliver.

Bankruptcy Foreclosure

The scam artist may promise to negotiate with your lender or to get refinancing on your behalf if you pay a fee up front. Instead of contacting your lender or refinancing your loan, though, the scam artist pockets the fee and files a bankruptcy case in your name – sometimes without your knowledge.

A bankruptcy filing often stops a home foreclosure, but only temporarily. What’s more, the bankruptcy process is complicated, expensive, and unforgiving. For example, if you fail to attend the first meeting with the creditors, the bankruptcy judge will dismiss the case and the foreclosure proceedings will continue.

If this happens, you could lose the money you paid to the scam artist as well as your home. Worse yet, a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, and can make it difficult to obtain credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.

To find legitimate help if you’re facing foreclosure, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.

Photo:  Rev Dan Catt

Tags: , , , ,