Watch Out! An old axiom states, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Crooks and scam artists find new ways to separate you from your money or good name. This article by Amy Hoaks brings you up to speed on some of the new moves from the thieves.
Link to original article HERE.
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Fraudsters find a way to scam lenders and homeowners out of money no matter how the housing market is faring, but in recent years they’ve shifted their tactics to profit from the market’s downturn.
Today, there’s less identity fraud and misrepresentation of income or employment to obtain a mortgage, mainly because stricter validation criteria when a borrower applies for a loan makes that strategy much less successful, said David Johnson, vice president of fraud and consortium solutions for CoreLogic, a provider of financial, property and consumer information.
But other types of fraud are replacing those scams. Some schemes target distressed homeowners who are looking for a way to save their home from foreclosure. Another tactic: Profiting off of short sales at the expense of the lender.
Schemes that prey on struggling homeowners heading toward foreclosure are still prevalent, even years into the foreclosure crisis, said Yolanda McGill, senior counsel for the Fair Housing and Fair Lending Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“It’s a crime of opportunity. A lot of people who are participating in this are probably long-term schemers and this is the cash cow right now,” McGill said. “They’re going to ride the train and milk it for all it’s worth. You have an enormous pool of distressed homeowners.”
Scammers use various pitches. Some say they can prepare your documents for you as you try for a loan modification; others claim to be an attorney or say they are working with an attorney. Often, these offers sound legitimate, echoing some of the same language used by big government programs and lenders to gain a homeowner’s trust.
They offer a service, take the homeowner’s money, then disappear, McGill said.
But the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule, in effect since January, prohibits firms offering mortgage-modification or mortgage-relief assistance to accept up-front fees, McGill said, so homeowners should never pay before services are rendered. There’s an exception for attorneys, causing some scammers to pose as representatives of law offices, she said.
Other fraudsters get homeowners to sign a quit-claim deed, which transfers ownership of the home to the scammer, who promises the homeowner a situation where he or she will be able to remain in the house, McGill said. In a newer scam, those who have already lost their homes are being approached to pay money to get the home back, she said.
“The scams are going to morph, but the message really needs to be: Don’t give anyone money to help you with this,” she said. Instead, seek out a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counselor and your servicer, she said.
A short sale can be a lifeline for a distressed homeowner heading for foreclosure. That’s because in a short sale the lender accepts a lower mortgage payoff when the homeowner owes more than the home is currently worth.
But fraudsters have found ways to make a profit off these deals. CoreLogic estimates that suspicious short-sale transactions may cost lenders as much as $375 million a year.