If you’re a homeowner struggling to make your mortgage payments and facing a possible foreclosure, a scammer might try to contact you. Scammer people and companies say that they help homeowners save their home—usually through a mortgage modification—but often leave homeowners in worse shape than before.
Read on to learn more about scams related to modification services and get tips on how to avoid them.
Borrowers who're struggling to make their mortgage payments might have a number of options to get caught up on the payments, including a modification, forbearance agreement, or repayment plan. You can apply for any of these options, including a modification, on your own without paying for assistance. But scammers might send you mailings trying to convince you that you’re better off hiring their company to help you with the process. (To learn what to do—and what not do—in the modification process, read Do’s and Don’ts for Getting a Loan Modification.)
Solicitations and mailings that you get from a modification company tend to look official, even though they aren’t. The name of the company might sound like the government has endorsed the program or the mailing might refer to official U.S. government programs. Typically, scammer mailings claim you can “Stop foreclosure now!” or “Over 90% of our customers get a loan modification.” These statements are ploys to get you to call the company. Once you do, the main goal of a scammer modification company is to separate you from your money by getting you to pay for the company to—supposedly—help you get a modification.
A modification company might try to convince you to pay for a “forensic loan audit” or a “securitization audit” to improve your chances of getting a mortgage modification.
In a forensic loan audit, in theory, a loan auditor reviews paperwork from when you took out your mortgage to see if the lender complied with the law. If the audit reveals legal violations, you can supposedly then use the results to strong-arm the lender into giving you a modification. But the way most companies conduct the audit is that a processor enters your information into a compliance software program, and the program prepares a very basic report. In most cases, no errors or only minor errors are found. The sales person might say that the results of such an audit will force the servicer into giving you a modification, but this is rarely true.
In a process called securitization, multiple loans with similar characteristics are pooled and then sold in the secondary market, often to a trust. A securitization audit will supposedly reveal whether your loan was securitized and, if so, whether the securitization was done correctly. But securitization audit reports usually just give you publicly available information and make unsupported conclusions of law that aren't useful when trying to get your loan modified.
Most foreclosure scammers, including modification companies, exploit a homeowner's trust and desperate situation by:
There’s nothing that a modification company can do that you can’t do yourself. In fact, the company might even hurt your chances of getting a modification, like if it:
By the time you realize the company is just running a scam, there might not be enough time to reinstate the loan, work out an alternative to foreclosure, sell the home, or find effective assistance. In almost all cases, you’re better off applying for a modification directly with the servicer yourself or—if you find the servicer is unhelpful or is dual tracking your application—hiring a reputable attorney to help you.
To protect homeowners in financial difficulty from losing their homes to foreclosure rescue scams, the Florida legislature enacted the Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act. This law imposes tight restrictions on anyone offering services purporting to help you save your residential property from foreclosure. New Jersey also has a law designed to prevent foreclosure consultants from taking advantage of distressed homeowners.
Here's how you can make sure that you don't become a victim of a modification scam.
If you suspect you're a victim of a modification scam, contact:
By reporting a modification or other foreclosure rescue scheme, you might be able to help someone else avoid becoming a victim.