With record numbers of individuals seeking home loans these days, it's no surprise that scam artists have developed new ways to separate borrowers from their money. Mortgage scams are on the rise and typically target people who are overextended, have bad credit, or are in need of financial relief. These scams can cost a lot – in fact, they can result in the loss of your home. Guard yourself against con artists with a little background on common mortgage scams:
There are documented cases of homeowners who unwittingly signed away the title to their homes because they were confused by paperwork. With any decision involving your finances, get everything in writing and insist on reading the documents carefully before signing. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Be sure you never sign paperwork with blank spaces or allow someone to rush you through the process.
High-Priced Home-Buying Seminars
You've seen ads in the newspaper (and on bus benches) for those home-buying seminars or programs catering to people with less-than-perfect credit. If you're considering such services, check out their fee structure first, and make sure you're not buying into a scam. If you're required to pay large fees in advance, chances are the service is not legitimate. Consult the Better Business Bureau before taking action.
The Reconveyance Racket
Say you're struggling with mortgage payments or in foreclosure. A business or individual offers to buy the property and sell it back to you, once you get your finances back in shape. The process is called "reconveyance," and there are legitimate companies offering these services. If you encounter a scammer, however, you could find yourself unable to repurchase your home.
Target: Reverse Mortgages
If a member of your family is considering a reverse mortgage, they should protect themselves against scams specifically targeting reverse mortgages and speak with a HUD-approved counselor first. Make sure they get at least three separate offers in writing, and that they understand the terms and conditions before signing. Remember, borrowers generally have up to three business days in which they can cancel a loan document.
Home Equity Hard Knocks
In this type of scan, the homeowner is approached by a contractor offering home renovations at an affordable price. When the homeowner protests that they can't afford the work, the contractor suggests he arrange financing through a lender acquaintance. The homeowner agrees, the contractor commences work, and then presents the homeowner with a bunch of paperwork. Some of the papers may be blank or incomplete and the contractor threatens to walk off the job unless they are signed immediately. After the fact, the homeowner discovers they've applied for a home equity loan with high rates and accompanying fees. At this point, the contractor has all the leverage because the work is underway and he's probably received a kick-back from the unscrupulous lender.