A rise in mortgage delinquencies is often accompanied by an increase in foreclosure rescue scams. The prospect of losing your home and damaging your credit is enough to scare anyone, but when you add the additional threat of being duped out of your hard-earned money by an unscrupulous scam artist, it’s easy to see why some people facing foreclosure want to throw up their hands and give up. The fact that there are opportunists in the world that prey on the vulnerable is a sad but constant fact of life. Nevertheless, you can protect yourself and your family from fraud and avoid making risky decisions by educating yourself, asking lots of questions and most importantly by keeping your money in your pocket.
Unfortunately, a crook is unlikely to tap you on the shoulder and announce his intention to steal your money. Thieves come from all backgrounds and live in all places, so it is a mistake to think that you will be able to identify a con artist by the way he/she looks or by the way he/she acts. In fact, a successful con man is likely to be very good at making you feel comfortable and safe. So how can you spot a foreclosure scam? What are the warning signs? Generally, it is the too-good-to-be-true’ promises con men often make as well as the questionable things they ask their victims to do that should raise big red flags.
Successful scams normally require the victim to willingly give money to the perpetrator (this is the critical mistake). Bernie Madoff would not have been able to swindle billions of dollars unless his victims had entrusted him with their money. Most email scams promise victims large sums of money as a result of winning a bogus lottery for example. In most cases, these victims will eventually be asked to pay advance fees to allow the phony deal to proceed (gotcha!). So how do you avoid making this error? The answer is simple–by keeping your money in your pocket! You can only lose money that you’ve actually given awayso don’t give away any money! A request for you to pay fees in advance before any service is provided should always make you stop and think twice, even if the person requesting the money is an attorney. Remember, every dollar you give away is a dollar you may never see again.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Since thieves are singularly focused on taking your money, they will promise you anything in order to get it. Keep in mind that you can only put a guarantee on things you have 100 percent control over. If a homeowner can’t pay his mortgage, only his lender can guarantee a particular outcome. Therefore, if you are guaranteed a specific result (i.e. a promise to stop your foreclosure, lower your mortgage payment or loan interest rate), you should ask yourself, does this person actually have the authority to make this decision? If the person giving you the broad guarantee does not have decision-making authority, chances are either he is incompetent or he is lying. Either wayyou should run for the hills! Don’t allow yourself to be used as a guinea pig. As a rule, you should always ask for references and demand that anyone offering to provide you a service demonstrate proof of his experience as well as the results he has already achieved with other customers.
So what should you do if you are having trouble paying your mortgage? First of all, be honest with yourself about what you are hoping to accomplish. If your financial problem is temporary and you do not want to sell your property, contact your mortgage lender yourself you don’t need to pay anyone else to do this for you. Dealing with your bank will probably be time-consuming and frustrating but at least it won’t cost you any money at a time when money is probably scarce. Believe it or not, your bank may be willing to work out a payment plan with you. Lenders sometimes offer options to homeowners experiencing financial difficulties as an alternative to the expensive and lengthy process of foreclosing on a home. Above all else, remember to keep your money in your pocket.