Smart Borrower Blog

Swindlers Take Advantage Of Distressed Homeowners


Jan 16th, 2009 @ 4:56 PM by Alden Smith


Every night, the nightly news tells us about more and more foreclosures, and people in trouble with credit card bills and other unsecured debt.  People, desperate to get out from under this staggering situation, are turning to every service and companies that can help them find relief.  With people in such distress, it is inevitable that unethical people come around to take advantage of them.

In an article in The New York Times yesterday, the reporter wrote about a new breed of swindler.  These defrauders aren’t trying any longer to bilk people out of the little equity they may have in a home.  Instead, they are offering services to unsuspecting people as foreclosure rescue companies.  They are offering to act as intermediaries with the loan provider to help stop foreclosure.  They of course do so for a fee.  The problem lies in the fact that as soon as the fee is paid, the swindlers do little or nothing to help the homeowner get their loans modified.

It is not that the Federal Trade Commission is standing by doing nothing.  Last year they brought suit against 5 companies that had a total of 20,000 customers on record.  State and local lawmakers are getting into the act, bringing in dozens more of these unethical people.   The issue lies in the fact that it is almost impossible for homeowners to sort out the bad apples.  It helps little that lawmakers have limited resources to fight the bogus rescue companies.

According to the NYT, the typical upfront fee charged is $3,000.00.  These swindlers can be either local or nationwide.  They use official looking websites with official looking or swiped seals of approval from legitimate organizations to provide credibility.  Many people cannot affords this upfront fee, and often borrow it from family or friends.  In the interim, they are running out of time to negotiate with the bank that holds the note.

According to the NYT, many of these people are former real estate agents or loan officers looking to get back into the swim.  Because they are deregulated, it often takes quite some time for them to be found out.  In the meantime, they swoop down on a community, take as much cash as they can, and then disappear, leaving the unsuspecting homeowner out of a fee and still in the situation they were in.

In California and 20 other states, people are protected against swindlers such as these because the state requires that services are performed before payment is received.  This helps, but leaves the defrauders 29 other states to do business in.  And that is the really sad part about this post.

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