Special to The Truth
In difficult economic times, fraudulent housing schemes become more prevalent, impacting homeowners and renters alike. To help you avoid becoming a victim of fraud, Freddie Mac is sharing the following insights and tips about the most common tactics and scams.
Previous financial disasters have led to more robust consumer protection laws. Nevertheless, you should remain vigilant about predatory lending. Look for warning signs, such as pressure tactics, incomplete, confusing or contradictory loan terms, and high rates and fees, including penalties for paying your loan off early. Additionally, lenders should not suggest you take out more credit than you need or suggest a monthly loan payment that does not cover the interest due on your loan. It’s important to work with someone you trust. If you’re hesitant to move forward with a lender, consult a HUD-certified housing counselor or lawyer to gain a better understanding of the loan terms.
Foreclosure Rescue Fraud
Fraudsters often target those in distress. During times of financial hardship, be especially aware of foreclosure rescue fraud, where someone falsely promises to be able to save your home from foreclosure. Common elements of this scheme include the fraudster requiring you to sign over the title to your home, asking you to sign unfamiliar documents or share personal information, and charging you rent to stay in your home. They may also offer to pay your delinquent mortgage by purchasing your home with the promise that you can repurchase it when your financial situation improves. If you’re struggling with mortgage payments, don’t deal with unknown entities. Directly contact your loan servicer, a HUD-certified housing counselor or a Housing Finance Agency for legitimate options to help avoid foreclosure.
Fraudulent Leases and Units
Millions of Americans have lost money due to fraudulent rental listings. You can avoid becoming a victim of this scam by always seeing a unit in person or over video conference before renting it, and by never paying a security deposit until you have signed a lease. Be sure to read your lease thoroughly before you sign it, asking questions about any concerning details early in the process. When rental unit hunting, be wary of red flags such as prices that are too good to be true, listings riddled with grammatical errors and property managers asking for personal information before you’ve seen a unit.
Typically, moving fraud occurs when scammers who act like legitimate movers provide a low estimate and, once you move, demand a higher price and withhold your belongings until you pay. To avoid this scam, research the company to ensure it is legitimate, insured and has good reviews. You should also know that reputable moving companies never require advance payments or use high-pressure sales tactics.
Report Scams Immediately
If you believe you’ve been a victim of a scam, take the following actions:
- If a criminal has your identification information, call your creditors to cancel your credit cards. Review your transactions to make sure you recognize them. You can also request that creditors receive your written consent before changing your mailing address or sending a replacement credit card. Your creditors may advise additional precautions.
- Contact the credit bureaus to freeze your credit reports so that there’s no activity on your reports unless you approve it.
- Report the scam to one or more of the following entities: the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, HUD’s Office of the Inspector General Hotline, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
To access Freddie Mac’s collection of fraud prevention resources, visit myhome.freddiemac.com.
Whether you’re a prospective homebuyer or seasoned renter, a scam could potentially impact you. Familiarizing yourself with common tactics can help you identify a scam before it’s too late.