Mortgage Rescue Scams Are On The Rise
One type of mortgage rescue scam involves a predatory “real estate investor” stealing the equity a victim has built up in their home. Typically, the scammer will tell the victim they want to help save the home from foreclosure. This “real estate investor” will tell the victim he or she will buy the house personally, or will arrange to have another investor purchase the house. The scammer promises to lease the house back to the victim for a period of 12 to 24 months to allow the victim to recover financially, repair their credit, find a better job, etc. They say that after the victim is economically healthy they will sell the house back at the end of the lease. The “real estate investor” will often also attempt to sell credit repair services, mortgage broker services, and job placement services to the victim as part of the scam.
Eventually, the scammer will force the victim out of their home and then sell the house, keeping the equity for themselves. Government officials are seeing more of this type of criminal scam as mortgage rates increase and increasing numbers of homeowners are facing higher mortgage payments. The scammers often use company names reflective of church affiliations. Often they use connections through social organizations or churches to meet victims. Another type of mortgage rescue scam is a lease back transaction built on a series of lies.
The scammer has no intention that the victim will be able to avoid losing the home. The scammer leases the house back to the victim with lease payments as high, or higher than the mortgage payments the victim was failing to make in the first place. The scammer will often fail to provide the promised credit repair services, mortgage broker services, or job placement services that would be needed to put the victim in a position to repurchase the property at the end of the lease. As soon as a lease payment is missed the scammer will move to have the homeowner evicted. Once the homeowner is evicted, the scammer will sell the house, pay off the underlying mortgage, and keep the equity. The victim end up with ruined credit and any mortgage obligations not satisfied by the sale of the home in the scam transaction. There are many other variations on this scam. Sometimes the scammer will purchase the house from the victim below market price. The loan application may claim that the scammer intends to occupy the house when, in fact, there is already an agreement to lease the house back to the seller which is not disclosed to the lender. This lie helps insure that the loan will be approved and will give the scammer a better interest rate on the mortgage than if it had been an investment loan.
Sometimes the scammer will use an “investor” to purchase the house with a mortgage loan at below market value. The “investor”, who is often another victim, will then immediately quit claim the house to the scammer, often for a fee being paid by the scammer. The “investor’s” loan application will often claim the property is to be owner occupied when there is a lease agreement already in place with the seller. The existence of the lease will not be disclosed to the lender. Scammers find vulnerable people through marketing, public records, or personal networks. Marketing includes direct mailings, radio and TV ads, or simpler approaches such as posting fliers. Public records may be found at county recorders offices where notices of trustee sales are available to the public. Personal networks often include churches or community organizations. Professional networks can be used to locate victims when the scammer is also a real estate agent, mortgage broker, loan officer, attorney, or appraiser with inside information about the victim’s vulnerable financial position and pending foreclosure. If you know people involved in these types of scams, call the Department of Financial Institutions Enforcement Unit with details.