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Updated 06/27/2011 08:29 AM
Smart Living: Homeowners beware of foreclosure scams
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One in nine homeowners nationwide are more than 90 days behind on their mortgage payments.
The fear of foreclosure has desperate homeowners turning to loan modifications for foreclosure ‘rescue' companies for help, only to realize they have fallen prey to a scam.
Foreclosure scammers have a wide variety of tactics and targets. Some of the most common targets include elderly and non-English speaking homeowners in distress.
However, since mortgage lending and foreclosure laws can be complex and confusing, almost anyone can become a victim. One of the simplest scams is pulled by rescue firms that claim to be able to save a house but demand an upfront fee, like one month's mortgage payment. Once the fee is paid, the company disappears with your money and information.
Here are some tips to prevent foreclosure scams:
Work with nonprofits: If you received solicitations by mail, phone, email or even in person, check out the person or agency to make sure that they are HUD-approved. HUD is the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The agency oversees the Federal Housing Administration, which is the largest mortgage insurer in the world. It also regulates housing industry business. You can visit HUD’s website and conduct an easy search for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies.
Don’t prepay: Many HUD-approved stop foreclosure programs are free, or inexpensive. If a firm asks for an up-front fee, this should be a red flag. Don’t fork over any money before you get help, and don’t use a firm that asks you to pay only via cashier’s check or wire transfer.
There are no guarantees: If a company guarantees you a certain result, like lowering your payment by 50 percent or getting your loan modified, move on!
According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the only person who has the power to decide your “stop foreclosure” outcome is the lender who holds the note. Any reputable counselor will tell you that they can’t guarantee a certain outcome.