How to Avoid Loan Modification Scams
By Sarah Parr
The United States has seen of the best scam artists in the world in recent times: loan modification and foreclosure rescue scammers. They give homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments a false sense of hope and security, and take advantage of their neediness by charging ridiculous amounts in fees. Foreclosure rescue scammers know how to navigate the court docket, sift through foreclosure filings and target homeowners who live in areas known as centers of foreclosure activity. Advertising by scammers comes in the forms of door-to-door solicitation, flyers or roadside signs or traditional web, radio and television advertising.
Loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams come in many forms so it may be hard to find the time to research them all, but here are some ways to avoid being scammed.
Communicate regularly with lender
Homeowners who would like a loan modification or who are at risk of foreclosure should never avoid any communication from their lender. During the process of a loan modification, proper communication with the lender should ensure a homeowner the status of his or her modification. There are countless cases of unethical organizations that never even speak with the lender while they collect monthly fees from a distressed homeowner.
Loan modification scam artists will do anything in their power to convince their target that they can definitely get the lender or servicer to modify a loan. The truth is, a suitable foreclosure defense or loan modification is never guaranteed, and access to certain government programs is only guaranteed for some borrowers. The lender or servicer can determine which programs will work for a particular homeowner.
Be Wary with Upfront Fees
It should not cost a cent to qualify for specific government programs meant to aid in the loan modification process or in foreclosure defense. It also shouldn’t cost a cent to speak with a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counselor. If an organization is asking for thousands of dollars upfront for access to the latest government program or a recent mortgage settlement, it could be a scam. Homeowners should also be wary of scammers who may want the homeowner to pay the monthly mortgage to them and not to the lender.
Free foreclosure counseling is provided by HUD-certified housing counseling agencies, or by contacting the Homeowners’ HOPE Hotline.
Contact legitimate government resources
Today, scam artists will do anything to appear as “official” as possible. A scam artist may pose as a member of a legitimate organization approved by, or affiliated with, the government and claim that a homeowner qualifies for a specific government program that aids in foreclosure defense or loan modifications. It is also common for non-attorneys to pose as attorneys and offer their loan modification services. A red flag should be raised when a law firm only offers loan modification services, and nothing else. Some law firms are even posing as non-profit groups, or offering bogus loan workouts or forensic loan audits.
Homeowners are urged to keep tabs on current scams facing the housing industry.