When an economic crisis hits – whether personal or national – there is a certain group of people who come out of the woodwork, just like cockroaches, scammers who want to separate you from your money. These days with millions of people struggling to pay their mortgages and millions more finding that their retirement funds have taken a hit, scammers are preying upon vulnerable consumers like never before.
Quite frankly, it takes an extra special amount of alertness on the part of consumers to avoid being scammed.
One area where scam artists are performing their dirty deeds is when it comes to home ownership. Because much of your personal information is publicly available, these crooks will often know that you are having financial problems and are waiting for the opportunity to give you their solution. Unfortunately, their solutions are meant to help themselves at your expense, possibly costing you hundreds of dollars or even the outright loss of your home.
Scam artists operate in a number of different ways, but they always work on your emotions to force you to make decisions that can bring you much harm. Let’s take a look at some of the methods scammers use to convince you that they are looking out for your good when they really aren’t:
Fear – Fear is a big motivator for people – we either fight or take flight. With their backs to the wall, some consumers make snap decisions, choices that they later regret. A scam artist will use the fear of you losing your home to convince you to sign away your home to them in exchange for some money. Each scam operates a bit differently from the other, but most likely you’ll give them the title to your home without receiving just compensation.
Ignorance – Ignorance of the law is no excuse for not knowing the law, but many homeowners simply don’t know their rights when it comes to home ownership and foreclosure. Some scam artists will try to intervene in your foreclosure, by offering a “white knight” solution which they say will solve all of your problems. Oftentimes, this involves extracting a fee from you – let’s say, $500 – which involves making phone calls on your behalf you can make for free. Worse, are those scammers who take your money and run.
Pride – Knowing that people who get scammed are often too prideful to admit that they were taken, scammers know that they can operate without impunity, going from homeowner to homeowner with their plans to extract money from them. Don’t let your pride get in your way – report a con job to the police and be prepared to file a complaint and testify in court if need be.
When con artists come a calling, they’ll offer to you a number of solutions including:
Telling you you’re in foreclosure when you are not. If you are behind on your mortgage payments, that doesn’t mean that you’re being foreclosed…yet. Contact your lender and find out where you stand and let them know you fully intend to meet your obligations. Don’t involve a third party (unless it is an attorney representing you) to tell you otherwise.
Offer to provide counseling. Personal business counseling is fine, but what are you getting for their advice? Moreover, what fees are being charged? Some financial counselors are legitimate while others are offering services you can do yourself, but for a fee.
Sign over the deed to them. Never sign your home’s deed over to another party, especially without having an attorney represent you. In addition, do not make payments to a third party as they may not be representing your lender. Again, contact your lender and remain in communication with them throughout your personal financial crisis.
Ultimately, if you are behind on your payments and have no way out, putting your home on the market could help you avoid foreclosure while also protecting your finances and credit. Never sign or do anything out of duress, recognizing that scammers will take advantage of your fear, ignorance, or pride to steal money from you.