Mortgage relief scams are rising with warning signs that include asking for upfront fees, making ongoing mortgage payments directly to them, asking for a property deed or title transfer to their company and pressuring you to sign documents you don’t understand. But those are just the warning signs of scams. Foreclosure rescue, bait and switch loans, and leaseback schemes are also becoming commonplace, according to US News.
Most people dream of a fresh start and settling in when making a new home purchase. But falling victim to a scam isn’t just bad luck any longer. Homeowner scams are on the rise and getting more sophisticated. It’s more important than ever to protect yourself and assets. Here’s how to get started:
It’s commonplace to need your Social Security number on loan applications, contracts and other paperwork. But do they really need the information and why? Ask how the information will be used and try to provide an alternative like your driver’s license number. Never give out your Social Security number through your email. It’s common for email phishing schemes to generate bank branded correspondence and asking for sensitive information like your Social Security number. Always call your bank or other institutions directly or visit in person with a representative before passing on the information.
Build in added protection around your identity and Social Security number. Never carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet in case it’s stolen and misused. Diligently check your credit cards and accounts to look for suspicious activity. Signing-up with a service like LifeLock can also help diligently monitor your online identity and even help restore it in case of a breach.
Thoroughly research and check the credentials of your contractors, vendors and lender before hiring or signing off on any paperwork. Ask for referrals from trusted friends and colleagues and perform due diligence in looking into your vendors’ background. Find out if they are licensed, accredited and what types of associations they belong to. Cross-reference their company with the Better Business Bureau to look for any negative feedback.
Once you find a trusted vendor like a home lender, ask them for their own referrals in the industry. Find out how long they’ve been working together and what their professional relationship is like. The more you can investigate every person you hire and sign contracts with, the more likely you are to find someone reputable and weed out the less than reputable.
It’s difficult to spot a new and emerging scam that hasn’t been exposed on the media yet. Instead, ask a trusted real estate agent what you should look out for to start. They’re more likely to have their ear to the ground for fraud alerts. Next, check the FBI website for emerging scams like the first-time home buyer credit fraud. For example, their “Inside the FBI” podcast discusses fraudsters diligently studying the mortgage process and researching public databases to research home owners who have gone into default. They present tempting offers and promises to hand over their last dollar, sign over their deed and are left with nothing.