Avoid housing scams!
Scams. What is it about the springtime that seems to make them sprout up like weeds? We’ve also noticed that scams also seem to appear during the holiday season as well as during times of disaster or personal tragedy.
One of the many areas where scammers seem to like to congregate is around the issues related to housing and financing. Perhaps it’s because people are often overwhelmed and not as familiar with the terms surrounding those areas. We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, have unfortunately seen several Harborites affected by these scammers over the years.
In last week’s blog we talked a bit about scams in general and how to avoid them. After reviewing that briefly today, we will discuss housing-related scams in particular.
As we mentioned last week, the Federal Trade Commission has some succinct information on how to avoid scams. In addition, the commission lists some of the current scams to watch out for on their website at www.consumer.ftc.gov.
In their brochure, “How to Avoid a Scam,” which is available online, they list four signs that something is a scam:
1. Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know.
2. Scammers say there is a problem or a prize.
3. Scammers pressure you to act immediately.
4. Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.
So many interesting economic dynamics have shifted during these last two years including major changes in the housing market.
Unfortunately, that’s often a great time for scammers to concoct a new deception or resurrect an old one in order to cheat someone out of their money and make a fast, illegal buck!
“There’s always going to be someone who jumps in who is going to make money in times like these,” said our longtime housing counselor, Julie Galligan.
Before we get much further, we want to encourage you to call Julie at (360) 533-7828 with any questions you may have regarding any housing issues from fraud and scams, landlord and tenant rights, improving your credit score to buy a house, or helping you figure out how to avoid foreclosure. Her consultation services are always free.
Remember, we aren’t selling you anything! NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor is a nonprofit organization that works to provide safe, affordable housing opportunities to residents of our county.
Because of illness or lack of income during Covid-19, some people have gotten behind with their mortgage payments. If you’ve gotten behind paying your mortgage for any reason, it’s critical to make arrangements directly with your lender or loan servicer. If you want help doing that, you can call us.
We realize that mortgages and foreclosures and all the paperwork isn’t something most people deal with a lot, but we do and we know how to simplify it for you.
Remember, scammers don’t identify as such! To lure potential victims, they use various kinds of advertising and will even look for foreclosure notices and then call their intended victim to “help.” They will usually make a promise to help you keep or sell your home for a fee.
There is legitimate government- approved mortgage and foreclosure help, just make sure that is in fact who you are dealing with. (Again, give us a call before you give anyone any personal information or money!)
The website, usa.gov/housing-scams contains some great information regarding tricks that scammers use:
Offering to act as a go-between with your lender or to negotiate with your lender to refinance your loan.
Advising you that they can stop foreclosure by “helping” you file for bankruptcy.
Encouraging you to sign fake foreclosure rescue or mortgage documents
Claiming that they can perform a forensic mortgage loan audit to help you hold onto your home.
Offering you fake legal help.
Don’t send mortgage payments to any company that is not your loan servicer.
Don’t sign any documents without having them reviewed by a lawyer or independent expert.
Don’t stop making mortgage payments.
Don’t forget that real help from the government is always free!
Don’t give anyone your personal information, Social Security number, or bank information!! Eventually if you are getting refinancing, you will need to share this information, but it’s important to wait until you’ve confirmed that the mortgage lender is legitimate!