The sluggish economy and slowly recovering housing market create the perfect environment for mortgage scams, with desperate homeowners as easy prey for scammers.
The crooks make the deal sound attractive and legit. Thousands of homeowners are duped in mortgage scams each year, and con artists don’t have to look far for victims, says Yolanda McGill, senior counsel for the Fair Housing & Fair Lending Project, an initiative by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C.
Most of the victims reach out to the scammers themselves through Internet searches, she says. She bases her conclusion on thousands of complaints that her organization has received from mortgage scam victims.
”The people showing up in our databases are people who are looking for help on the Internet,” she says.
— A theft in-‘deed’
Lured by promises of a better interest rates and lower mortgage payments, some borrowers end up signing away their houses.
Thieves pose as mortgage professionals or attorneys who pledge to modify or refinance the homeowner’s mortgage. The borrower is asked to sign the supposed modification papers. One of the pages in the stack of documents is a deed that, once signed, transfers ownership of the property to the perpetrators or a company related to them.
While many homeowners would be able to spot such an ingenious trick, others don’t bother to read or simply don’t understand the documents they sign, says Brian Sullivan, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesman.