By Denise Groene
Better Business Bureau
The nationally recognized Better Business Bureau (BBB) has identified yet another new scam, aimed at those who may already be in financial straits. Scammers are not content to simply steal identities or access and drain bank accounts. Recently reports have increased of thieves who are out to take over your very home via a new kind of deed scam. Homeowners are tricked into signing away their property to the scammer who has posed as someone attempting to “assist” them through their financial difficulty.
How the scam is played out By accessing public records, crooks can identify victims. They can gather a sense for whether someone is behind on a mortgage payment or in foreclosure. They contact the victim saying they are a “foreclosure specialist,” or with some similar title that sounds pertinent to the victim’s situation. Scammers can be exceptional at faking empathy, disguising themselves as trustworthy and expert at assistance.
The “specialist” gives the victim a description of what seems to be a way out of financial woes. Their “plan” appears to be a way for the victim to keep the home. It can be hard to resist such a sales pitch when victims are desperate, and scammers know this all too well. They describe a means of modifying the victim’s mortgage and lowering payments. To get the ball rolling, they request that the victim sign a few legal documents. Failure on the part of the victim to read the documents carefully (and the details may be expertly disguised within technical financial terminology) or allowing a con artist to fill in areas of a document the victim have already signed, can result in the loss of the home.
In one version of the scam, the victim may be required to make monthly “lease” payments. In due time the victim will be evicted, and they will take possession of your property. Undoing such a situation after the victim has signed over everything to a scammer, is a long and difficult process.
Avoiding deed theft Here are BBB’s tips for keeping yourself safe from deed scams:
• Always refuse to sign over your deed. There is no guarantee you could ever recover it, even though the scammer used deception.
• Be especially resistant to pressure to act quickly for credit repair or foreclosure avoidance. They may try to provoke an emotional reaction from you, claiming if you don’t accept their “help” you will certainly lose everything.
• Watch out for false promises. Legitimate businesses do not make promises they may not be able to keep. A crook may tell you they can guarantee your home will be safe if you accept their offer.
• Only seek help from trustworthy sources. For those behind on their mortgage payments and other bills, or who have received a foreclosure notice, there are genuinely helpful local housing counseling organizations that can help. Find a list of government-approved housing counseling services at: https://www. hud.gov/states/kansas/ homeownership/hsgcounseling If you are in financial trouble, don’t add to your difficulties by falling for this scam aimed at stealing your home. For questions you may have about this or any other potential scam you are experiencing, contact BBB at (800) 8562417 or visit our website at BBB.org.