- Is someone letting you live in a home for free?
- Did a builder offer you deep discounts to move into a newly constructed house?
- Has a company offered to refinance your mortgage for a fee?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you may be a victim of a scam. FBI special agents and the state investigators with the Utah Division of Real Estate have compiled a list of top five mortgage related scams in 2010.
1. Reverse Mortgage Scam: Reverse mortgages can be a legitimate way for senior citizens to take equity from their homes without a monthly payment. However, con artists convince senior citizens they can live in a home for free, obtain a home loan under the occupant’s name, and disappear with the equity, leaving the victim to repay the mortgage.
2. Short Sale Fraud: A “short sale” transaction involves a lender agreeing to sell a property for less than the mortgage amount. Fraud occurs when a distressed homeowner finds a prospective buyer and they secretly set a low sale price. Unbeknownst to the lender, the buyer is willing to pay more for the property and the homeowner pockets the difference.
3. Builder Bailouts: Simply put, builder bailouts are a “kick-back” scheme. They may be more common in a troubled real estate market where builders may have a surplus of unsold properties. The builder offers excessive “incentives” to the purchaser. These incentives are disclosed as a down payment which leads the lender to believe there is equity in a home. Under these circumstances the builder and the buyer are committing fraud.
4. Loan Modifications: The FBI Salt Lake City Field Office issued a consumer alert about loan modifications in the fall of 2009. Special agents and state investigators are concerned homeowners may fall for this same scam in 2010. Companies charge up to $2000, promising to make a homeowner’s mortgage payment more affordable. But some homeowners report that they didn’t get what they paid for. For more information on loan modification scams please find the 2009 news release at: http://saltlakecity.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel09/slc110409.htm.
5. Affinity Fraud: Affinity fraud is an ongoing concern for the Salt Lake City FBI Field Office and the Utah Division of Real Estate. Fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are, or pretend to be, members of a particular religious, ethnic, or professional group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme. They convince those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s ruse.
For more crime tips or information on how to file a complaint with the FBI, please go to http://saltlakecity.fbi.gov/ or call (801) 579-1400. Consumers are also urged to visit the Utah Division of Real Estate website at http://realestate.utah.gov/.