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MORTGAGE RESCUE SCAMS: TOP 10 WARNING SIGNS
added on January 21, 2010

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How to Protect Yourself from Mortgage Modification and Foreclosure Avoidance Scams

Always proceed with caution when dealing with anyone offering to help you modify your mortgage or avoid foreclosure. Remember that you do not need a third party to work with your lender — any such party should make the process easier, not harder and more expensive.
  • Contact your lender or mortgage servicer first. Speak with someone in the loss mitigation department for mortgage modification options and other alternatives to foreclosure.
  • Make all mortgage payments directly to your lender or to the mortgage servicer. Do not trust anyone to make mortgage payments for you, and do not stop making your payments.
  • Avoid paying up-front fees. While some legitimate housing counselors will charge small fees for their services, do not pay fees to anyone before receiving any services. Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
  • Know what you are signing. Read and understand every document you sign. Do not rely on an oral explanation of a document you are signing — make sure that you read and understand what the document actually says. Otherwise, a document may obligate you to terms you don’t want or may even convey ownership of your home to someone else. Never sign documents with blank spaces that can be filled in later. Never sign a document that contains errors or false statements, even if someone promises to correct them. If a document is too complex to understand, seek advice from a lawyer you trust or a legitimate, trusted financial counselor.
  • Do not sign over your deed without consulting a lawyer you select. Foreclosure scams often involve transfer of ownership of your home to a con artist or another third party. Never agree to this without getting the advice of your own lawyer, financial advisor, credit counselor, or other independent person you know you can trust. By signing over your deed, you lose the rights to your home and any equity built up in the home — and you are still obligated to pay the mortgage.
  • Get promises in writing. Oral promises and agreements relating to your home are usually not legally binding. Protect your rights with a written document or contract signed by the person making the promise. Keep copies of all contracts that you sign. Again, never sign anything you don’t understand.
  • Report suspicious activity to relevant federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, and to your state and local consumer protection agencies. Reporting con artists and suspicious schemes helps prevent others from becoming victims. If your complaint or question involves a national bank and you cannot resolve it directly with the bank, contact the OCC’s Customer Assistance Group by calling (800) 613-6743 (800) 613-6743 , by sending an e-mail to customer.assistance@occ.treas.gov, or by visiting www.HelpWithMyBank.gov.
  • Contact a legitimate housing or financial counselor to help you work through your problems.
  • To find a counselor, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at (800) 569-4287 (800) 569-4287 or (877) 483-1515 (877) 483-1515 , or go to www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hccprof14.cfm.
  • Call (888) 995-HOPE (888) 995-HOPE , the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline to reach a nonprofit, HUD-approved counselor through HOPE NOW, a cooperative effort of mortgage counselors and lenders to assist homeowners.
  • Looking to buy a house or build one overseas in Nigeria or Ghana? Please fill out our questionaire.

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