Stop Home Scams
According to NeighborWorks America, 21% of renters are at risk of eviction and the number of seriously delinquent mortgages hit its highest level in more than five years. In response, housing scams are on the rise across the country.
Hi, my name is Symphony, and I was preyed on by a home scammer last year.
For many 2020 was a difficult year. Like many, I lost an important member of my family, and following this person’s death I was tasked with handling all debts of their home. However, I did not have the financial resources to do so. Without a miracle, I was going to lose the house. Yes, the home my family built. At the time, I was not able to financial support a home, and sadly in the middle of a pandemic, banks added extra precautionary steps that would prevent me from getting a loan. Every turn was a dead end. Amid my failed attempts, I received a pink letter in the mail from an organization that offered to help save my home from foreclosure. Instantly I was sold, and the letter looked legit. Immediately, I called them, and after a few minutes, I was hooked. All I had to do was start my payment plan of $500, and in the next five months, the house would be entirely mine. My prayers were answered, and I could breathe again. Simple right? Well, not exactly.
After I agreed to do business with them over the phone, things changed.
I reviewed their website and found no history of the organization. The website was nothing more than a paragraph stating how they saved several families from foreclosure, but they showed no results. I could not find a physical address, phone number, or email address. After I became skeptical, I requested an invoice that detailed the payment plan, and the organization refused to do so. That did not make sense because any legal entity should be willing to email invoice or contract before entering into a payment plan. After several failed attempts to get something in writing, I requested to speak to management to voice my concerns, and they instantly hung up and ignored my calls. I never heard from them again.
I had no idea I was in the middle of a home scam
I did not know they existed. It was also disheartening to know people that I love may have also received this letter and may have fallen victim to this scam because they would do anything to keep their homes. I am here to tell you home scammers exist, and they are using every tactic under the sun to get your money.
Here are three tips that can prevent you from falling to scams like this.
- Avoid promises of success or anyone who guarantees to assist with payment or prevent foreclosure or eviction. No one can make this promise.
- Avoid companies that tell you to stop paying your rent or mortgage. Being told to stop paying is a sure sign of a scam.
- Do not pay upfront for a service that hasn’t been completed. A “money-back guarantee is unnecessary when advance fees for mortgage assistance are illegal.
Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, the organization I work for, partnered with NeighborWorks America and the Stop the Scam campaign designed to educate homeowners and renters about housing scams, how to report them and where to get trusted assistance. Anyone can be a victim. Sadly, seniors, Black Americans, Asian Americans, and the Latinx community have experienced higher incidences of scam activity. To learn more tips and ways to prevent being a victim of home scammers check out www.stophomescams.org.