At a time when house foreclosures are on the rise, beleaguered and vulnerable property owners who are at risk of losing their Mobile Eastern Shore homes are increasingly the targets of unscrupulous con-artists offering fast and false solutions.
These individuals/companies contact their unsuspecting prey in person or by mail, phone, or email. They advertise their services in all forms of media and far too often appear legitimate. They promise foreclosure prevention/rescue programs and sometimes seem to have government connections. At-risk owners of a Mobile Eastern Shore home must beware of the following scams as set forth by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency:
- Foreclosure “rescue” and refinance fraud. The scam artist offers to act as an intermediary between you and your lender to negotiate a repayment plan or loan modification and may even “guarantee” to save your home from foreclosure. You may be told to make mortgage payments to the scammer directly — along with significant, up-front fees — and be told that the scammer will forward the payments to your lender. In reality, the scammer may pocket your money and leave you in worse shape on your loan. The scam artist also may tell you to stop making payments or stop communicating with your lender. Don’t follow that advice.
- Bankruptcy scams. You may have heard that filing bankruptcy will stop a foreclosure. This is true — but only temporarily. Filing bankruptcy brings an “automatic stay” into effect that stops any collection and foreclosure while the bankruptcy court administers the case. Eventually, you must start paying your mortgage lender, or the lender will be able to foreclose. Bankruptcy is rarely, if ever, a permanent solution to prevent foreclosure. In addition, bankruptcy will negatively impact your credit score and will remain on your credit report for 10 years.
- Leaseback/rent-to-buy schemes. In this type of scam, you are asked to transfer the title to your home to the scammer, who will, supposedly, obtain new and better financing and/or allow you to remain in the home as a renter and eventually buy it back. If you do not comply with the terms of the rent-to-buy agreement, you will lose your money and face eviction. The agreement may be very hard to comply with, because it may require, for instance, high up-front and monthly payments that you may not be able to afford. In fact, the scammers may have no intention of ever selling the home back to you. They simply want your home and your money.
- Fake “government” modification programs. Unscrupulous people may claim to be affiliated with, or approved by, the government or may ask you to pay high up-front fees to qualify for government mortgage modification programs. While government-supported mortgage modification and refinancing initiatives are legitimate, the scam artists’ claims are not. Keep in mind that you do not have to pay to benefit from these government programs. All you need to do is contact your lender or loan servicer.
- Debt-elimination schemes. Scammers may claim to be able to “eliminate” your debt by making illegitimate legal arguments that you are not obligated to pay back your mortgage. These scammers will provide you with inaccurate claims about applicable laws and finance, such as that “secret laws” can be used to eliminate debt or that banks do not have the authority to lend money. Do not stop making payments on your mortgage based on their claims.
WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR MOBILE EASTERN SHORE HOME:
- Be skeptical!
- Contact your lender before doing anything
- Make ALL payments to your lender
- Pay NO up-front fees
- Know what you’re signing
- Do NOT sign over your deed!
- Get promises in writing
- Ignore promises of quick and easy shortcuts
WHERE TO GET HELP:
- Contact HUD at (800) 569-4286 or (877) 483-1515
- Call (888) 999-HOPE for a HUD-approved foreclosure counselor