Helpful Tips for Homeowners to Avoid Scams During a Pandemic
Staying at home may significantly reduce your chances of getting infected by the Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19). As you stay in the comfort of your home, you might be at risk of falling victim to scams. This is especially true if you’re one of the millions of people who lost their jobs and fearing that you could miss your mortgage payments in the coming months.
Important: Visit the LendUS Loan Forbearance page and immediately call your servicer if you’re falling behind with your monthly payments. Find out from your state’s official website what reliefs are available for you. Many states have temporarily suspended foreclosures because of COVID-19 to keep families safe in their homes.
During these difficult times of uncertainty, it’s critical that you protect yourself from scams that could put you in a much compromising situation. Scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic to steal your identity, your money, or much even worst, you could lose your home.
In Ventura County, California alone, the County District Attorney’s Office recently warned homeowners about scams related to mortgage, forbearance, and loan modification because of too many people requesting mortgage forbearance.
Homeowners who experience financial hardships could be vulnerable to scams as they look for viable solutions to cope up with their situation. If you try to get help from people who promise you to get you out of trouble, you could lose more money and even risk your home. These helpful tips could help you avoid scams during a pandemic:
Seek help from qualified professionals
You need to get in touch with your mortgage servicer immediately if you’re having trouble with your monthly payments, whether you qualify for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act or not. However, if you think that your servicer is not cooperating, your best option is to seek advice from an approved housing counselor. The Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF), for example, could offer you professional advice about mortgage reliefs and they could even help you if you fall victim to a scam. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a list of all the housing counselors in your state to help you understand your options.
Be cautious from people who ask you upfront payment for help
You’re experiencing financial difficulties, that’s why you’re seeking professional help. There could be times that you come across with people or organizations that would only offer you help if you pay them first. Certified housing counselors often will offer you help for free or with a minimal fee. Keep in mind that it’s illegal for organizations to charge you an upfront payment unless you accepted their written offer and you get the desired results. If you’re considering getting help from a mortgage relief company, make sure that you can still contact your servicer to know more about your options. Be highly suspicious if you’re being pressured to accept a deal that you’re not comfortable with.
The devil is in the details
When it comes to the fine print, make sure you understand everything before affixing your signature on the dotted line. Scammers could trick you into signing documents that transfer your deed so you can avoid foreclosure. Ask questions or get a second opinion from someone you trust who has experience working with a mortgage relief company. You could be dealing with a scammer if someone pressures you to sign a complicated document that you barely understand.
Ignore unverified phone calls
Government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) Freddie Mac recently warned homeowners about call spoofing as a scheme that scammers use to trick you into believing that they’re from a reputable organization that could offer you help. According to Freddie Mac, scammers can make any name or number appear from anywhere in the world. If you receive an unverified phone call, it’s advisable to immediately hang up and report it to authorities. Never entertain such calls and never give your personal information.
Scammers target vulnerable people
Aside from people with health concerns, scammers are also taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to target people who struggle with their finances. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) scammers follow the news and use it to trick you by offering false services to save your home. You may come across with any of the deceptive messages like “Stop foreclosure now!”, “Get a loan modification!”, “100% Money Back Guarantee!”, and “Over 90% of our customers get results!”. If any of these deceptive messages have your attention, scammers may use a variety of tactics to get your money, the FTC said.
If you’re having trouble with your monthly mortgage payments, it’s advisable to work with your servicer to find out what mortgage relief is available for you. Consider getting in touch with a professional housing counselor if you think your servicer is not cooperating with you. During this time of a pandemic, scams are rampant and it could cost you more money or even lose your home if you become a victim. Consider the tips here to avoid getting scammed.