Foreclosure “Rescue” Scams


Author: Lowell Steiger

Published On: April 19, 2008

Yahoo! News published a fascinating article by Nick Carey entitled “Troubled Homeowners Fall Prey to ‘Rescue’ Scams.”

Among the byproducts of the U.S. housing crisis is a surge in scams that cheat people out of their money, their homes, or both, under the guise of offering to rescue them from foreclosure.

“There is a lot of money to be made if you are good at committing fraud,” said Debra Zimmerman, an attorney at Los Angeles-based Bet Tzedek Legal Services, which provides free legal assistance to stricken home owners. “Foreclosure rescue scams are big business right now.”

Groups like Zimmerman’s say that as soon as borrowers end up in foreclosure — a matter of public record in the United States – they are bombarded with calls, leaflets and knocks on the door from people armed with fraudulent offers of help.

Huston Julian, 54, of Eastpointe, Michigan, nearly fell for such a scam. Julian bought a home in this working class suburb of Detroit in October 2006, but fell behind with his $1,084 monthly payment when his disability benefits were cut off. He ended up in foreclosure in December. Read the rest of the article here

According to Fraudguides.com, Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Scams usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Phantom Help: The “rescuer” charges very high fees for basic phone calls and paperwork that the homeowner could have done on his or her own
  • Bailout: “Rescuer” helps homeowner get rid of their house and, somehow, title always ends up in the “rescuer’s” name
  • Bait and Switch: Scammers tell victim they are signing new loan documents to bail them out of current problems but they are actually signing forged documents that give the scammers ownership of their home. Victim will still owe for the mortgage but will no longer have the asset.

The National Consumer Law Center, Inc. has published a 4 page treatise entitled Consumer Facts for Older Americans which warns that “older Americans who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments are being disproportionately targeted for so-called “rescue” scams.” They discuss the issues of Phantom Help, False “Bailouts” and Bait-and-Switch scams. The article goes on to describe how a foreclosure rescue scam works, how to avoid foreclosure “rescue” scams, some major don’ts for homeowners in trouble and they provide a link to their 68 page report Dreams Foreclosed: The Rampant Theft of Americans’ Homes Through Equity Stripping Foreclosure “Rescue” Scams.

A Google search on Rescue Scams provides a wealth of links with some very valuable information.

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