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Beware: Foreclosure Solutions May Be Scams

You could lose more than your house with some mortgage delinquency options

You don't want to lose your house, but you could lose a lot more if you get hooked into what seems like an easy way out of mortgage delinquency.

Here is a list of common foreclosure rescue and loan-modification scams:

Lease-Back or Repurchase Scams


In this scenario, a promise is made to pay off your delinquent mortgage, repair your credit and possibly pay off credit cards and other debt. However, in order to do this, you must “temporarily” sign your deed over to a “third party” investor. You are allowed to stay in the home as a renter with the option to purchase the home back after a certain amount of time has passed or your financial situation improves.

The trouble is once you have signed away your rights in your property, you may not be able to repurchase the property later, even if you can and want to. After the new owner takes ownership of your property, the new owner can evict you. Furthermore, the scammer is under no obligation to sell the house back to you.

Typically, after the deed is signed away, the property changes hands numerous times. The scammer may have taken a new mortgage out on your home for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than your mortgage, making it impossible for you to buy back your home.

Partial-Interest Bankruptcy Scams


The scam operator asks you to give a partial interest in your home to one or more persons. You then make mortgage payments to the scam operator in lieu of paying the delinquent mortgage. However, the scam operator does not pay the existing mortgage or seek new financing. Each holder of a partial interest then files bankruptcy, one after another, without your knowledge. The bankruptcy court will issue a “stay” order each time to stop foreclosure temporarily.

However, the stay does not excuse you from making payments or from repaying the full amount of your loan. This complicates and delays foreclosure, while allowing the scam operator to maintain a stream of income by collecting payments from you, the victim. Bankruptcy laws provide important protections to consumers.

This scam can only temporarily delay foreclosure, and may keep you from using bankruptcy laws legitimately to address your financial problems.

Refinance Scams


While there are legitimate refinancing programs available, look out for people posing as mortgage brokers or lenders and offering to refinance your loan so you can afford the payments. The scammer presents you with “foreclosure rescue” loan documents to sign. You are told that the documents are for a refinance loan that will bring the mortgage current.

What you don’t realize is that you are surrendering ownership of your home.

The “loan” documents are actually deed transfer documents, and the scammer counts on your not actually reading the paperwork. Once the deed transfer is executed, you believe your home has been rescued from foreclosure for months or even years until you receive an eviction notice and discover you no longer own your home. At that point, it is often too late to do anything about the deed transfer.

Phone and Internet Scams


Some scam lenders convince you to apply for a low-interest mortgage loan on the phone or Internet. They then extract vital information, such as your social security and bank account numbers. In this scam, the loan is immediately accepted, after which you start faxing the documents and sending wire transfer payments to the phony company without even meeting the lender.

Unfortunately, this scam will put you in twice as much trouble--your personal details have been stolen or sold, putting you at risk of identity theft, and your home is still at risk of foreclosure.

'Phantom' Help Scams


The scam operator presents himself as someone who is able to help a homeowner out of foreclosure or qualify for a government loan modification or refinance program. In exchange for his or her “services,” outrageous fees are charged and grand promises are made for robust representation, which never occurs.

The “services” performed entail light paperwork or occasional phone calls that you could easily have made yourself. In the end, you are worse off than before, because you have little or no time to save your home, or seek other assistance.

What To Do

If you believe you have been a victim of a foreclosure or loan modification scam, contact your state Attorney General's office, the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Resources:
FDIC: Foreclosure prevention resources
FTC: Complaint assistance
National Association of Attorneys General
Better Business Bureau

Based on the FDIC article, "Tips for Avoiding Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue and Loan Modification Scams."