If you’re like most people, you think you could never get scammed. Thousands of people were scammed in 2011, and of that, close to 11,000 reported being scammed while trying to get a loan modification or save their home from foreclosure. Many people never report so we know the number is higher. Since most people think they could never get scammed, how do so many people get scammed trying to modify their mortgage? Read on.
When you’re having a hard time paying your mortgage or you’re already behind, you could get frustrated with your lender if the help you desperately want seems hard to come by or not coming at all. Next you receive a foreclosure notice in the mail. That’s when you get nervous. So imagine your family member or a friend from church recommends a company that guarantees they can get your lender to modify your loan. You call the company and the person you speak with really understands your situation. The company even offers a money-back guarantee so you can’t lose. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. You will probably get scammed.
Scammers may use names like loan modification consultant or forensic auditor, and usually represent that they can negotiate special agreements with your lender. They may contact you by phone, mail, online, or in person. They often seem legitimate and make big promises to modify loans and guarantee that they will save your home from foreclosure. They usually charge fees and then disappear although they provide little or no service. Unfortunately, many victims lose money and their homes. Don’t be one of them.
The most common sign of a loan modification or foreclosure scam is being asked for money, either upfront or at some point in the process. The fees or money requested may have different names – administrative, processing, insurance, audit or securitization fees. But did you know it’s against the law for a company or individual to ask you to pay any money before you have a written offer from your lender approving the loan modification or halting the foreclosure? It’s called the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) rule, administered by the Federal Trade Commission. More scam signs can be found at www.loanscamalert.org.
So what should you do if you have problems paying your mortgage? Here are the top things you should do to avoid foreclosure and scams:
1. Contact your lender as soon as you get concerned about paying your mortgage.
2. Determine your options by speaking to your lender's loss mitigation department.
3. Be patient but persistent with your lender, because getting a loan modification takes time.
4. Call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) to speak with a trained counselor 24 hours a day or to find a local HUD-approved counseling agency to talk to a counselor in person.
5. Avoid anyone who asks for a fee prior to providing any loan modification service, including companies, individuals and even some lawyers.
6. Avoid anyone who guarantees to get your loan modified or stop a foreclosure, because nobody has the power to make this promise.
7. Avoid companies that tell you to stop paying your mortgage and to pay them instead. This is a sure sign of a scam.
8. Report loan modification or foreclosure scams at any time by visiting www.LoanScamAlert.org or calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).
Lastly, beware of recent scams related to national foreclosure programs. If you watch the news, you may be familiar with the Independent Foreclosure Review and the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement. The scammers are familiar with them, too. They are expanding beyond loan modification and foreclosure rescue to include these national initiatives. They now offer to “help” you get money from these programs and others – for a fee. This is a scam. There is no fee required to get assistance with completing or submitting the forms for these programs. For more information related to loan modification and foreclosure scams, visit www.LoanScamAlert.org.
Representatives from NeighborWorks® America have been educating homeowners about the warning signs of loan modification scams, a wave of fraudulent activity connected to the foreclosure crisis. The effort is an extension of Loan Modification Scam Alert, a national public education campaign to help homeowners protect themselves against loan modification scams, find trusted help and report illegal activity to authorities. The campaign brings together NeighborWorks America, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and other government and non-profit partners including 235 community-based affiliates.