The recent announcement of the $25 million mortgage settlement between five major banks and state and federal government officials was probably welcome news to many people in the real estate business. But it has at least one downside: It will probably cause a rise in scams targeting borrowers seeking assistance.
Currently, between $4 billion and $6 billion is lost each year due to borrower-assistance swindles, says Joanne Kerstetter, vice president of education and community relations for Money Management International, a credit counseling service based in Sugar Land, Texas. Those numbers could go up over the next few years as scammers take advantage of the mortgage deal in their schemes.
“They’ll use government terms,” Kerstetter says. “They’re going to sound very official, as if they’re part of the settlement.”
Also, some of these scammers will guarantee access to borrower assistance funds. That’s a major red flag, she says. “Generally speaking, the advertisements that say, ‘Call us to get money,’ are not representing organizations officially involved with the settlement,” Kerstetter says.
In general, consumers should be wary of any company that reaches out to them with unsolicited offers of assistance. If they need help, they should contact their lenders or a financial counseling agency certified by HUD, Kerstetter says.
“The important thing is not to release any contact information to anyone who approaches you,” she explains. “Don’t sign anything unless you’re clear about what you’re signing and that your mortgage lender is involved in the process. If you’re making payments, make sure they’re going to the loan servicer or mortgage provider.”
By Brian Summerfield, REALTOR® Magazine
- Five Mortgage Scams To Avoid (johnodellrealty.com)
- Mortgage settlement scams are popping up, be careful (fresnobeehive.com)
- Beware of mortgage rescue scams masquerading as new federal programs (news.consumerreports.org)
- Avoid Mortgage Refinance Scams (apmortgagemarin.wordpress.com)
- FTC Cracks Down on Car Loan Scams (loans.org)
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John J. O’Dell