Mortgagors having difficulties making their mortgage payments must be very careful about deals to "help" refinance or negotiate with their current lender. Title agents should also be aware of these scams and very leery of any "Rent-to-Own" or "Leaseback Schemes." We have seen claims and lawsuits against agents increasing over leaseback scams. Agents are often presumed by plaintiff's counsel to be involved in the scam and named as defendant in the resulting lawsuits. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has posted warnings on their website exposing the most common loan modification scams currently being encountered. They are also follows:
Phony Counseling or Foreclosure Rescue Scams - The scam artist poses as a counselor and tells you he can negotiate a deal with your lender to save your house-if you pay him a fee first. He may even tell you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or housing counselor-that he’ll handle all details. He may even insist that you make all mortgage payments directly to him while he negotiates with the lender. Once you pay the fee, or a few mortgage payments, the scammer disappears with your money.
Fake "Government” Modification Programs - Some scammers may claim to be affiliated with, or approved by, the government or they may ask you to pay high, up-front fees to qualify for government mortgage modification programs. The scammer’s company name and Web site may sounds like a real government agency. You may also see terms like "federal,” "TARP” or other words related to official U.S. government programs. Your lender will be able to tell you if you qualify for any government programs to prevent foreclosure. You do not have to pay to benefit from these programs.
Bait and Switch - The scam artist convinces you to sign documents for a "new modification” that will make your existing mortgage current. This is a trick! You actually just signed documents that surrender the title of your house to the scam artist in exchange for a "rescue” loan.
Rent-to-Own or Leaseback Scheme - A scammer urges you to surrender the title to your home as part of a deal that will let you stay in your house as a renter and then buy it back in a few years. He may tell you that surrendering the title will permit a borrower with a better credit rating to get new financing- and keep you from losing your home. However, the scammer may have no intention of ever selling the home back to you. But the terms of these deals usually make buying back your home impossible. Worse yet, when the new borrower defaults on the loan, you’re evicted.
Bankruptcy to Avoid Foreclosure - The scammer may promise to negotiate with your lender to get refinancing on your behalf if you pay a fee upfront. Instead of contacting your lender or refinancing your loan, he pockets the fee and files a bankruptcy case in your name-sometimes without your knowledge. A bankruptcy filing often stops a home foreclosure, but only temporarily. Filing bankruptcy stops any collection and foreclosure while the bankruptcy court administers the case. But, eventually you must start paying your mortgage, or the lender will be able to foreclose. You could lose the money you paid to the scammer and your home. Worse yet, a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, which makes it difficult to obtain credit, buy a home, get life insurance or even get a job.
Old Republic National Title Insurance Company
Title Talk, Summer 2010
Volume 21, Number 2