The thought of losing your home to foreclosure can be devastating, and it’s natural to look for ways out. Unfortunately, scam artists are quick to prey on desperate homeowners, so it’s important to be wary of offers that appear too good to be true.
Scammers often make promises that they can’t keep, such as guaranteeing to “save” your home or lower your monthly mortgage payment. Scammers may claim they’re affiliated with the government or your lender when they’re not.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
has rules in place to protect homeowners facing possible foreclosure. The Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule makes it illegal for compa
nies to collect any fees until a homeowner has actually received an offer of relief from his or her lender and accepted it. That means even if you agree to have a company help you, you don't have to pay until it gets you the result you want.
The MARS Rule also requires companies to be forthcoming in their marketing materials and telemarketing calls. For instance, if a company tells you to stop paying your mortgage, it must also warn you that doing so could result in losing your home and damaging your credit. If a company doesn't follow this set of rules, it could be trying to defraud you.
The U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide these five tips for avoiding foreclosure scams:
1. Beware of anyone who asks you to pay a fee in exchange for a counseling service or modification of a delinquent loan.
Scam artists often target homeowners who are struggling to meet their mortgage commitment or are anxious to sell their homes. Read through the entire MARS Rule
so that you’re better prepared to avoid common scams.
3. Beware of people who pressure you to sign papers immediately, or who try to convince you that they can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house.
4. Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.
5. Never make a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage company without its approval.
If you believe you’ve become the victim of a scam, file a complaint with the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) for assistance in English or Spanish.