Government impostor scams

It’s no secret that many consumers are struggling financially during these trying times. Unfortunately, some are at risk of losing their homes. In an already stressful situation, scammers are targeting vulnerable homeowners.

There are a few versions of foreclosure rescue scams. In one, the scammer offers to “buy” the property by paying off the overdue amount on the loan, then convinces the homeowner to transfer the deed to a third-party owner. The homeowner is then offered the opportunity to rent the house and eventually buy it back. But the new rent is higher than the homeowner can afford, and they are evicted.

Another version includes the scammer reaching out via phone call, text or email, claiming they can lower mortgage payments to help the homeowner avoid foreclosure. They ask for payment for their services, and once they have the money, they disappear without delivering on the promised outcome.

If you’re worried about your mortgage or facing foreclosure, consider these tips from your Better Business Bureau:

• Talk to your lender. You can reach out to your lender to restructure your loan payment or refinance. Scammers running a foreclosure rescue scam may offer to “negotiate” with a lender on your behalf… for a significant fee. If you’re uneasy talking to the lender yourself, ask a trusted friend or relative to assist you.

• Do your own paperwork. Never allow anyone to complete paperwork for you, and read contracts closely before signing anything. Victims of this scam signed quit-claim deeds, thinking they were signing documents to secure a new mortgage.

• Watch for red flags. Be wary of “rescuers” that approach you, through mail, phone or email. Some scammers may instruct you not to contact your attorney or mortgage company. If the rescuer requests to be paid in gift cards or wire transfer, or pressures you to sign a contract quickly, cut off contact.

• Check BBB. If you are considering a deal with a company that offers to buy your home, check their business profile on BBB.org to see if they are trustworthy.

• Search for information. Foreclosure prevention information is available for free at the HOPE hotline. Educating yourself on your options and the correct processes is the best way to avoid falling victim to a scam.

You can find more information on scams like this at BBB.org, or report a foreclosure rescue scam at BBB.org/ScamTracker.