Common Mortgage Scams and How to Avoid Them

February 4, 2014
By: cometrealty

During the recent housing crisis, scams became quite common. Here are some typical hoaxes, and advice on how to avoid being duped. 

1. The Savior Scam
If you’ve ever been on the brink of foreclosure, you’re already well aware of the flood of letters, emails and phone calls you’ll receive offering to help save you from your situation. When homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments, the lender files a Notice of Default, making the mortgage troubles (and property address) public record. This makes the homeowner easy prey for con artists, who typically set up fake companies offering to help pay the mortgage and get the homeowner out of foreclosure. They can’t help, and will likely try and get the owner to sign the house over to them so they can sell it and reap the profits, or ask for upfront fees before they help. 

2. The Renter Rip-off
In this type of scheme, a fraudulent investor, who is not making mortgage payments, rents out a home on the brink of foreclosure and pockets the money until the lender forecloses. 

3. The Ghost Buyer
In this fraudulent scenario, the true identity of the borrower is concealed through the use of a nominee, who allows the buyer to use his or her identity and credit history in order to secure a loan.

4. The Fake Appraisal
This type of scam typically involves several parties, such as a mortgage broker, investor, and title company. All are paid off to help inflate the value of an appraisal on a house. The home might really be worth $450,000, but the house is sold for $500,000 to an unsuspecting buyer. 

5. The Bait and Switch
There are many variations on this age-old scam, but the mortgage version typically goes something like this: a potential buyer is baited with an enticing loan offer. After putting considerable time and effort into preparing for financing, the buyer is presented with a loan of much less favorable terms, particularly a high interest rate. Often, the buyer accepts these new terms since so much has gone into the loan process, and the lender reaps a profit without doing anything outright illegal. 

6. The Lease Back Scheme
This type of scam also starts with promise of rescue. The owner can no longer afford the mortgage payments and a fake company offers to take over the mortgage. Facing foreclosure, the homeowner agrees to sign the deed over in exchange for the ability to continue living in the home as a renter, while the new homeowner is supposedly paying off the delinquent mortgage. The rent payments are promised to go toward buying the property back, with interest.

However, the scammer who took over the home typically pockets the rent, then disappears when the owner is evicted. In other instances, the scammer simply remortgages the home, cashes out the equity and skips town while it goes into foreclosure anyway.

Tips for Avoiding Mortgage Scams: 

1. Beware of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in exchange for counseling or help with a loan modification.

2. Do not sign over the deed to your property to anyone or any company unless you are working with your mortgage company directly to forgive your debt.

3. Never make a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage company without their approval.

4. Never sign a document that you don’t understand.

5. Never leave any part of your application blank.

6. Never give out personal information over the phone when someone first contacts you.

7. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true.

What should you do if you are the victim of a Scam?
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant at ftc.gov/complaint, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP for assistance.



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