You hear and see ads all over the place. “We will stop your foreclosure!” “9 out of 10 customers keep their homes!” “Modify your loan with us, guaranteed!” You might have even received personalized letters in the mail that make similar claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scammers are all too eager to go after those who need help the most. Consumers want desperately to keep their homes, reduce their mortgage payments, and just be more financially stable. When companies offer them a light at the end of the tunnel, many are willing to travel down that path. Hopefully, you will able to see through the false promises these companies make and avoid becoming another victim of their all-too-common scams.
Scam Warning Signs
Look for some of these telltale signs that you may be dealing with a scammer:
- Scammers often guarantee they can get the lender to modify your loan or stop foreclosure. No one but your lender can guarantee this—period. They may claim they have an outstanding relationship to work these things out. Do not believe them.
- If you hear a lot of incredible statistics, like 99% of customers get their loans modified, be highly skeptical. If they are shouting these kinds of “results” from the rooftops, run for the hills.
- No trustworthy company will tell you to avoid talking with your lender, attorney, or a counselor. You have to ask yourself, “Why would they not want me to speak with my lender or attorney?” They are up to no good, and they want to take your money.
- Fees are always a suspicious topic. First, know that a mortgage relief service provider may not legally charge you an advance fee unless it is an attorney. (In which case, make sure the provider actually is an attorney. Many scammers falsely claim to be associated with a law firm!) If they are willing to violate the law, they are willing to steal your money. Second, do not pay for any services or any “initial fee” by wire transfer, or by sending cash or a cashier’s check. If you are dealing with a scammer, you will never see that money again.
Seeking Real Relief
It is unfortunate that so many are so willing to prey on distressed homeowners. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources offering legitimate help, and there are a lot of alternatives to foreclosure.
You may consider contacting HUD-approved housing counseling agencies near you, or the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that may be able to help you with loan modification and foreclosure prevention.
Of course, your servicer can discuss some of your options with you, including a possible loan modification, repayment plan, reinstatement, forbearance, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure. Foreclosure is not in their best interest so they may work with you.
You may want to contact an attorney who can explain other alternatives, such as Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Also, an attorney can explain all of your options in a way that you can understand. An attorney can also help you determine which option is right for you, help you prepare for and execute your course of action, and explain any possible effects of each of your options.
If you are struggling with your mortgage, act quickly. The longer you wait, the fewer options you have.