Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Housing Counselors Warn Foreclosure Rescue Scams Still Common

It was agreed by nonprofit housing counseling agencies and housing rights advocates that foreclosure rescue scams are still common in the Bay Area, and there’s no need for homeowners in distress to empty their pockets paying for private attorneys.

Because of the sudden death of the family’s primary breadwinner, Tatakamotongas of East Palo Alto suffered from mortgage payments. They decided to seek help with obtaining a loan modification to lower their monthly payments and due to this they came into contact with a scammer rather than legal help.

“The advice they gave me was ‘Don’t make any more payments at all. The longer you are backed up, the more we can help you.’ And so of course I believed them,” says Mele Tatakamotonga.

The scammer was a private attorney. He told them to stop paying their mortgage so that they will qualify for a modification and charged them $3,000 for the assistance.

But as expected from a scammer, after paying the fee the phone number had been disconnected.
“Foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams are continuing and getting bolder,” says Vanitha Venugopal, program director of Community Development and Investment at The San Francisco Foundation.
Homeowners must pay for help with loan modifications and other housing issues because scams continue to be rampant, advocates say.

The Tatakamotongas finally found Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, a nonprofit law office, which collected the family’s money from the dishonest attorney, and assisted them with obtaining a loan modification.

Maeve Elise Brown, Executive Director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) in Oakland, another organization that offers free legal aid, warns that scams are commonly carried out by unscrupulous attorneys.
Brown also says that the media needs to be wary of running scammers’ advertisements.
Many homeowners looking for help contact scammers that they find through television and radio ads.
According to Leah Simon-Weisberg, the legal director of Tenants Together, about 40 percent of the occupants of foreclosed properties are tenants. Tenants can also get free help from nonprofit legal aid offices.

Advocates agree that homeowners looking for help should know the following:

1. Don’t trust people who want you to pay them for help in obtaining a loan modification, or for other housing counseling services. Beware particularly of attorneys charging for these services.
2. Don’t trust people who tell you to stop making your mortgage payments in order to qualify for a loan modification.
3. Don’t submit mortgage payments to anyone other than your servicer without your servicer’s direct consent.
4. Don’t sign over your property deed to anyone unless your servicer is directly involved in the process. If you don’t understand what someone is asking you to sign.
  source: http://springhillgrouphome.com/2013/09/housing-counselors-warn-foreclosure-rescue-scams-still-common/