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How can I guard against foreclosure fraud?

There are many sayings about not “rubbing salt in a wound” or “kicking someone when they are down.” Residents of Mississippi learn from their parents not to take advantage of others and a bad situation they may be facing. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people out there that do just that. If you are facing foreclosure, be aware of possible scams that may come your way.

The federal mortgage program, Freddie Mac, co-chairs a public education campaign about foreclosure fraud. It identifies several types of scams that prey on homeowners who may be in trouble financially. They can obtain your name from public records that identify property that has been served a notice of default.

In a foreclosure “rescue” scam, a company offers to save your home for a fee. Some of their tactics include pressuring you to sign over your home’s title or to sign several documents without reading them. The deed to your home may be buried among the pile. They may also promise to let you buy back the home when your finances improve, and in the meantime allow you to stay there and pay them the rent. The repurchase price they offer may be excessive and unfair, or the company may fail to make your mortgage payments, which can end in foreclosure.

A similar scam is “loan modification,” with operators offering to approach your lender and work out a deal with smaller monthly mortgage payments. They may “guarantee” you reduced payments, but they do not approach your lender. Instead, they walk away with your upfront fee and maybe your title too.

A short-sale fraud has several variations, which can include an offer to broker a sale of your home to an interested party for a price that is below market, then resell it right away to a third party and reap an instant profit. You may avoid foreclosure, but you have just been involved in a fraudulent sale if the lender is misled about the home’s value. You may also be on the hook for any outstanding amount of the loan balance.

Your best protection against foreclosure fraud is your skepticism. Red flags that you might have stumbled into a scam include being asked for upfront fees, any kind of title transfer not involving your closing agent, low-ball purchase offers and all offers not made in writing. If you are unsure about any part of a sale or offer, seek advice from an accountant, realtor or attorney.

This information in this article is general in nature and should not replace legal advice.

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Pond Law Firm
1650 Lelia Drive Suite 101
Jackson, MS 39216

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