By Christie Peale, Executive Director, The Center for NYC Neighborhoods
Imagine that you are at risk of losing your home, the home that you and your family worked so hard to buy. Whether due to a loss of employment, unforeseen medical costs, disability, or some other unexpected change in your life, you have fallen behind on your mortgage. You know you need help, but are unsure where to turn. One day, you get a call from a company offering the help you’ve been looking for: if you work with them, all of your problems will disappear and you will be able to save your home – for a price. It sounds almost too good to be true.
Thousands of New Yorkers have fallen victim to foreclosure rescue scams, and it’s becoming an epidemic in our neighborhoods. Between March 2010 and September 2014, foreclosure rescue scammers stole $8.25 million from our neighbors. They prey on New Yorkers who are already struggling to pay their mortgages, offering them false hope and promises to pay down their bills and make their problems disappear. In reality, the scammers steal thousands from the homeowners, and are never heard from again. The homeowner falls deeper and deeper into debt – not knowing who they can trust.
It can be difficult to recognize these scammers. They spend heavily on advertising to make them appear legitimate. New Yorkers have even met them through recommendations from unknowing friends, ads on the radio, and even presentations at houses of worship.
The scammers are coming up with new tactics and scams to target unsuspecting homeowners every day. The newest rising threat is deed theft scams. Through confusing paperwork, homeowners are tricked into signing over the deeds to their homes, believing it is some other type of legal document.
Don’t let this happen to you. Look out for these key scam warning signs:
- Guarantees and Promises: Legitimate organizations can promise to work hard for you, but cannot guarantee results.
- Upfront Fees: It is almost always illegal to charge upfront fees for foreclosure prevention services.
- Stopping Payments: Never send your mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage lender or servicer.
- Confusing Language or Paperwork: Don’t let anyone pressure you to sign any paperwork that you do not understand.
- Transferring Ownership of Your Property: Never turn over your deed or transfer ownership of your home to a mortgage assistance company.
- Aggressive Sales Pitches: Watch for companies that knock on your door or call you out of the blue and suggest that ‘without their help,’ you will lose your home.
Amongst a sea of scammers, New Yorkers must know that there is free, legitimate help from trusted government partners and local non-profits out there. That’s why the Center for NYC Neighborhoods worked with NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to develop AGScamHelp.com, where you can find out if a company is government-vetted, get connected with free housing assistance, and report suspected scams.
Don’t get scammed! Protect your family, your neighbors, and your communities from scammers preying on vulnerable New Yorkers – visit AGScamHelp.com or call 855-HOME-456 for help.