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How To Detect and Avoid Foreclosure Scam Artists

Fortunately, the economy seems to be stabilizing and bouncing back from COVID-19. But unfortunately, inflation is red hot. The real estate market is challenging, given the high rates on mortgage payments. There are "foreclosure rescue" scam artists seeking to prey upon homeowners' desperation to stay in their homes. They might target homeowners by offering homeownership services for:

  • Loan documents or a new loan with a mortgage company
  • Refinancing
  • Mortgage modification
  • Mortgage assistance or mortgage relief in general

Who Runs Foreclosure Scams?

Foreclosure rescue scammers are individuals, and sometimes companies. They purport to help overwhelmed and underwater homeowners fight foreclosure. They pretend to assist them with their mortgage problems, but they're actually only looking to make a profit for themselves. These scam artists are real-life wolves in sheep's clothing. They're looking to make a quick buck by taking your money and delivering no services, stealing equity. In some cases, they want to take your home outright.

There are legitimate organizations offering guidance to homeowners who are having problems making mortgage payments or facing foreclosure. But it's important to protect yourself from foreclosure rescue scammers when looking for foreclosure help. The following are tips on how to identify scam artists. There's also information on how their scams work.

Who Scammers Target

The only rule all scam artists observe is "follow the money." In today's post-pandemic environment, scam artists are swarming to homeowners like bees to honey. Homeowners can easily fall behind in mortgage payments because of the recovering economy and rising interest rates. Homeowners also may find it difficult to sell their homes or do loan modification because of housing market rates.

Foreclosure rescue scammers are acutely aware of the economic climate. They prey on distressed homeowners' fears because they know there is money to be stolen. Scam artists flock to this market because of a plethora of potential victims. Foreclosure notices are either public record or easily obtained. So, scammers can identify their victims easily. Scammers know their targets are desperate—they may go to extremes to protect and stay in their homes.

Red Flags and How To Spot Scammers

Legitimate lenders must follow stringent federal laws. They're required to provide you with written notice through the mail. They can't engage in baseless threats or profanity over the phone. Mortgage loan servicers must also abide by laws protecting active-duty military members and people facing bankruptcy.

Scammers and con artists prey upon the fears of homeowners with different types of scams. They'll first attempt to gain a borrower's or homeowner's trust. The best strategy is not to allow scam artists in the door. There are several red flags that should raise your suspicions right away.

There are important warning signs to look for. Proceed with care if a person or company:

  • Contacts you claiming to be a foreclosure or mortgage servicer without proof
  • Attempts to collect an upfront fee before providing services, especially by wire transfer
  • Tells you to make mortgage payments directly to the person or company rather than the lender
  • Instructs you to cease contact with the lender, with the understanding that they will work out an arrangement with the lender
  • Encourages you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time
  • Offers to buy your house above market value, especially if the offer is too good to be true
  • Pressures you to sign paperwork you haven't had a chance to read thoroughly or that you don't understand. Legitimate consultants will walk you through the process step by step and give advice without pressuring you

Foreclosure rescue scam artists employ a wide variety of strategies to separate a homeowners from their money or property. But most scams fit within the three categories below.

1. Phantom Help

Just as the name implies, the scam artist takes payment from the homeowner but delivers few or no services.

Often, the foreclosure rescuer charges high upfront fees for things homeowners can do by themselves easily. In other cases, the scammers may never perform services and, consequently, will make the situation worse for the homeowner, who believes that the problems are being addressed by the "rescuer". In either scenario, the desperate homeowner has spent money that could have been used elsewhere. The homeowner has also lost precious time to catch up on the mortgage or explore other options (e.g., refinancing) to improve their situation.

2. Sale and Leaseback Scam – the White Knight Scheme

Here, the foreclosure rescue scammer offers to step in and save the home from foreclosure. They offer to buy the home and agree to lease it back to the homeowner. At the same time, the homeowner makes monthly payments to buy back the home.

While the method of taking ownership of the house varies, what remains the same in all sale and leaseback scams is that the scammer manages to take title to the house, which is their goal. Then, they can do whatever they wish with the house. Now-former homeowners often find that the terms of the leaseback are crushing. They have little chance that the homeowner can ever buy back the home.

3. Bait and Switch

In this scheme, the scam artist cons the homeowner into signing over title and ownership of the home. Sometimes, the scheme is like the leaseback scam. In other cases, the scam artist will confuse and trick the homeowner into signing documents, turning over ownership. Homeowners think they are signing documents for one purpose when, in reality, the scam artist is stealing their home. For example, you may think you're signing for a foreclosure prevention “rescue" loan to stay current with your mortgage. In reality, you may be signing over ownership of your home in exchange for the "rescue."

How To Avoid Scams

While there's no guaranteed strategy to avoid a foreclosure scam—other than not accepting any assistance whatsoever—there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure to such scams. Whether you choose to employ a consultant to assist you or not, make sure to:

  • Keep in contact with your lender. Cutting off contact with the lender is the first thing a scammer will want you to do. It's also the worst thing you can do. Lenders can assist in a loan modification, and even if they don't, you need to stay in touch with them regarding deadlines and filing requirements.
  • Find legitimate foreclosure assistance through state or federal government sites or certified consultants. Go to, or other state-specific sites to get more information.
  • Keep yourself independently informed about the foreclosure process. Don't simply trust what a consultant tells you.
  • Check your state's laws governing the behavior of foreclosure consultants and identity theft.
  • Get everything in writing. Verbal promises are practically impossible to enforce.
  • Do not sign anything that you don't fully understand. If you don't understand what you're signing, have an attorney or someone familiar with mortgages review the document.

What To Do If You're a Victim of a Scam

If you feel that you're a victim of a scam, contact your lender directly, find out what damage has been done (deadlines passed, payments skipped, etc.), and figure out your options with the lender. Outside of the mortgage, you may be able to sue the scam artist for money or property they've stolen.

You should also report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. Visit or call the 877-FTC-HELP hotline. Other consumer protection organizations include:

Contact a Lawyer

Experienced legal counsel can protect you if you've fallen victim to a scam. Contact a real estate attorney today for more information about legal services. They can file papers for you in court and communicate with your bank to set the record straight.

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