Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Foreclosure "rescue" scams

Whenever disaster strikes, most people try to help out others. Most people. A few others swoop in to try to take advantage of the situation. Foreclosure "rescue" scamsters are just such scumbags. Since foreclosures are public record, it is very simple for the scamsters to get online and see who might need their "help." We used to have one such gentleman in our community who provided such services for a couple of years. What he would do is contact his potential victim, er, I mean client and tell them he could clear up their foreclosure for them. He would have the homeowner sign a power of attorney, sometimes a deed to him, and an authorization to talk with the homeowner's lender. He would make sure he would drain the homeowner of any money they might happen to have for his service fee.

Early in his career he would contact the lender, and find out what it would cost to get the mortgage payments current, and pay that. He skipped this step later. He would then require that the homeowner pay him the monthly payment, which he generously bumped up for more of his "service fees." He even set up an out of state corporation for this payment processing. For a while, he actually made some payments directly to the lenders. This must have been very boring, since he stopped doing this after a time.

You might be thinking that the homeowner would get notification that their payments were not being made. You would be right if he hadn't used that power of attorney to change the address the lender had on file for sending notices to his address. Of course, he had that signed when he was the great guy, white knight, rescuer, etc. Often the next thing people knew was that the foreclosure was back on, and the scamster had been pocketing their money for months without making a single payment to their lender.

In one particularly egregious case, he had the homeowner deed the property to him, in addition to paying him a $20,000 service fee. When the homeowner got wind that he was not making payments, she wisely contacted a lender to help her straighten things out. The scamster, since he was now the owner of the property, demanded that the homeowner give her some money to "buy the house back from him," because he had lots of equity (which he of course stole from the homeowner in the first place). We eventually got him and his equally sleazy attorney to drop this preposterous demand, and we got the property back in her name, with a fair and reasonable mortgage. I wish I could give you a transcript of our "negotiations" with the scamster's attorney, but his language and his claims of what he was going to do to me would require this blog to get an R rating if I did post it. Lucky for us, both the scamster and his sleazy attorney have left town--no doubt raining fraud upon another community.

Moral of the story: If you are in financial trouble, contact your lender right away. And contact a reputable real estate attorney before you sign anything designed to help you. I will bet most attorneys will charge you less than $20,000...