Homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure are often the prime targets of con artists selling mortgage-relief scams. Many mortgage scammers have been arrested, but plenty more are trying to take advantage of homeowners’ financial woes. Here are some examples of common mortgage-relief scams.
1.) Imposter counselors: Several Florida men were arrested in August 2011 and charged with defrauding homeowners as a company named Home Owners Protection Economics Inc., or H.O.P.E. — meant to mimic the name of Hope Now, a public-private alliance of lenders, nonprofit housing counselors and other mortgage-industry participants. The scammers claimed to be connected to the homeowners’ lenders or said the homeowners were approved for a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program. They demanded an upfront fee for their services.
2.) Loan-Audit Offers: This scam works by a salesperson calling the homeowner and saying they are going to audit their mortgage documents and use the violations they could find to force their lender to approve a loan modification. The scammers would tell people that they found violations 90% of the time. These scammers typically ask homeowners for $1,000 to $5,000, with an average fee of $3,000.
3.) Money-back guarantee: Howard Shmuckler, owner of The Shmuckler Group in Vienna, Va., collected almost $2.8 million from struggling homeowners by promising them he could guarantee a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program. He told these homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments and to avoid contact with their lenders. Homeowners should never pay a fee for loan-modification assistance. Government and nonprofit housing counselors provide this service for free. Some of Shmuckler’s victims might have been able to modify their mortgages under HAMP if they had not fallen so far behind on the mortgage after following Shmuckler’s advice.
4.) Calls to stop contacting your lender: Be wary of anyone who tells you to stop paying your lender or who tells you to stop trying to contact your lender. This past March, three people were arrested on charges of committing fraud against California homeowners. They were Gregory and Cynthia Flahive, ex-spouses and co-owners of Flahive Law Corp., and the firm’s managing attorney, Mike Johnson. In addition to requiring upfront fees in exchange for loan-modification assistance, the Flahives told one homeowner to reject his lender’s offer of a loan modification. They told that homeowner that they could get a better deal. Instead, the home was lost to foreclosure in four months.
5.) Misrepresentation of the attorneys general settlement: Another common scam is for homeowners to be told that a caller is from a government agency with information about the mortgage settlement. The caller requests a bank routing number or other personal information to “facilitate the refund,” but then the scammers drain the bank account. To avoid this scam, never give out personal financial information to anyone who calls.
6.) Mass-joinder scam: Fake and even legitimate law firms send notices to homeowners, including some who are not in financial distress, that claim the homeowners have been wronged by their lenders and may be eligible for restitution. The homeowners are told to pay $2,000 or more to become part of the lawsuit. Never pay a fee to become part of a class-action lawsuit. Anyone who guarantees a loan modification from your lender or guarantees that a foreclosure can be prevented cannot be telling the truth.
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Choosing the right attorney can make the difference between whether or not you can keep your home. A well-qualified attorney will not only help you keep your home, but they will be able to negotiate a loan that has payments you can afford. Foreclosure defense attorney, Timothy Kingcade has helped many facing foreclosure alleviate their stress by letting them stay in their homes for at least another year, allowing them to re-organize their lives. If you have any questions on the topic of foreclosure please feel free to contact me at (305) 285-9100. You can also find useful consumer information on the website, Kingcade & Garcia, P.A.