While most companies and businesses are honest and have their customer’s best interests in mind, unfortunately in some instances that is not always the case. We wanted to highlight four common homeowner scams and what you can do to prevent yourself or a loved one from becoming a victim.
- Movers/Moving Scams: Moving can be a stressful and expensive process. Ensure you aren’t taken advantage of by always extensively researching the company you are considering using in a variety of places, including the Better Business Bureau. Also, keep the following red flags in mind. The following are examples of suspicious/fraudulent practices: Asking you to sign a blank contract in advance, arriving on moving day in a truck with no logo/company information, refusal to give you a written estimate, demand payment before the move, only have a cell phone number for the business and no physical business address, quote you a price over the phone without inspecting your items onsite, give you a very low quote and then substantially increase the price once they reach the destination or demand more money and refuse to release your items to you. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help protect yourself from movers/moving scams:
- Get an in-person, written quote from several moving companies.
- Verify the companies are insured in the event of damage or loss to your items.
- Ask for the company’s DOT number and verify that they are registered on the FMCSA database.
- Review the contract again before the movers begin work.
- Do not sign a blank contract or approve an estimate over the phone.
- Do not pay for the move in advance or in cash.
- Foreclosure Scams: Sometimes scammers will contact homeowners who are having trouble making their mortgage payments and offer to “help” their situation. Usually these scammers offer to help you keep your home without going into foreclosure by charging you an upfront fee. Unfortunately, they aren’t trying to help your situation, they’re trying to help themselves to your money. These scammers look for potential victims by advertising online and in local publications, researching foreclosure notices and contacting homeowners on the list and more. Some of the tricks scammers may use in a foreclosure scam include: Telling you they can stop foreclosure by helping you file for bankruptcy, offering to negotiate with your lender/act as an intermediary between you and your mortgage lender to refinance your loan, encouraging you to sign fake documents related to foreclosure or bankruptcy, offering you fake legal help or offering to perform a forensic mortgage loan audit to help you keep your home. If you are having trouble making house payments and are facing foreclosure, remember the following important things:
- Government help is always free.
- Don’t stop making your mortgage payments.
- Don’t sign any documents without having them first reviewed by an attorney or independent expert.
- Don’t send money or mortgage payments to a company that is not your lender.
- Don’t give out any personal information including your social security number, bank account numbers, etc without first verifying their identity and that their company is legitimate.
- Research mortgage/foreclosure schemes so you don’t become a victim.
- Predatory Loans: Most mortgage companies and lenders are honest providers who engage in honest practices. Unfortunately, there are dishonest lenders that engage in predatory loans that put you at risk of losing your home. Some of the fraudulent practices they might use include: Encouraging borrowers to lie on their applications about income, cash available for down payment and expenses in order to obtain a loan, use false appraisals to sell properties for more than they are worth, knowingly lend borrowers more money than they know they can afford, charge high interest rates based on factors other than credit history, or charge fees for unnecessary or nonexistent products and services. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you protect yourself:
- Interview multiple real estate agents and verify their license and check references.
- Get information about comparable properties in your neighborhood.
- Before executing a home purchase contract, hire a licensed and qualified home inspector.
- Shop for lenders and compare rates and fees. Be suspicious if anyone tries to get you to go with one particular lender.
- Be an educated consumer by researching and consider attending a home-ownership education course.
- Don’t lie about anything on your home loan application, including age and income.
- Don’t fall for anything that seems too good to be true.
- Don’t give anyone your personal information through messaging or email and not until you can verify their identity and credibility of their company.
- Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot.
- Be wary of loan products offered by telemarketers, flyers or door-to-door salespeople.
- Rental Scams: Rental scams can impact both the tenant or future tenant and property owners. Some red flags to look out for in potential rental scams: Ads contain grammatical errors and or misspellings, the price of the property is much lower than similar properties, the owner or agent tries to get you to sign the lease before seeing the property in-person, the owner or agent is unavailable to show you the property or charges a fee to view it, or the owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help protect you from being a victim of a rental scam:
- Get the terms of your lease in writing.
- Get a signed copy of the lease with both your signature and the property owner.
- Search for the property and owner on other websites including real estate websites to make sure it isn’t listed in another place or under a different name.
- Do not pay your security deposit, fees or first month’s rent until both parties have signed the lease.
- Do not wire payment for your security deposit or first/last month’s rent. If the transaction is fraudulent, you cannot recover your money if paid via wire transfer.
- Don’t send money for a rental property overseas.
- Verify the property owner/manager is legitimate before signing the lease and giving them access to your personal information.
When looking into movers, help getting out of a foreclosure, looking for a lender, or renting your home, there are a lot of resources available to protect yourself. There is a variety of information on each topic and how to report suspected fraud, by visiting the website listed in the source below.