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 Real Estate Blog 
Wednesday, October 10 2012

Freddie Mac’s fraud unit is teaming up with real estate professionals who list HomeSteps homes to sniff out bogus rental ads of REO properties — a growing problem, according to Freddie Mac.

“We’re hearing more reports about fraudsters trying to cash in on the housing crisis’s remaining foreclosed homes by advertising them as rentals on the Internet,” writes Freddie Mac in a recent blog post warning about the Craigslist REO rental scams.

The scam works like this: After a house is sold at foreclosure, a scammer then posts an ad online trying to rent out the home before the new owner moves in. Interest renters then contact the scammer about leasing the property, and they are asked to submit their personal credit information for the lease application as well as two months of rent.

It’s often not until the would-be renters try to move in that they realize they’ve been duped: The key to the house doesn’t work or they find the house is for sale or even that the previous owners are still living there. There have been some cases where scammers change the locks in the house and give the renters a working key. It’s the real estate listing agent who then often discovers the renters living there and the scam.

Freddie Mac and real estate professionals are working together to find the fake Internet rental ads. When they do, they are having the ads removed immediately. They’re also warning renters on how not to be duped from the ads, such as always verifying the home’s status through a listing agent or through county records.

Source: “Caveat Renter: Fraudsters Falsely Advertising REO as Rentals,” Freddie Mac Blog (Oct. 8, 2012)

Posted by: Rolando trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, January 18 2012
Scammers have targeted delinquent borrowers during the past few years, hoping to take advantage of their desperation and financial inexperience. Their approach typically involves posing as a representative of a nonprofit or government agency who can help with a loan modification or some other form of assistance.

Sheri Stuart, education manager at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Counseling, says she frequently encounters consumers at courses offered by her organization who have been victimized by these scams. Stuart says she recently met a couple from Southern California at one of these events who’d paid $3,000 to a fraudulent company in an attempt to keep their home out of foreclosure.

“It’s disconcerting,” she says. “It has a ripple effect. It not only affects the home owners, it affects the communities as well.”

To keep more consumers from being taken in by these scams, Stuart offers the following four red flags to help determine whether borrowers’ knight in shining armor is actually a swindler on the make:

1. They ask for money up front. “That’s usually an indication that someone has an ulterior motive,” Stuart says.

2. “Phantom help” appears out of nowhere. If a consumer hasn’t proactively contacted anyone about missed mortgage payments, but suddenly gets calls and mail about getting help for missed mortgage payments, it’s probably a scammer.

3. They present phony credentials. Many companies that claim to offer assistance will have official-looking seals from credentialing institutions on paperwork, promotional materials, and Web sites. Research those organizations to make sure they actually exist.

4. They make promises they can’t deliver. If they make ambitious guarantees about being able to modify loans or halt foreclosures, that should set off alarm bells. “Nobody can promise you a loan mod,” Stuart says.

If your clients suspect they have been or are being targeted, point them to Loanscamalert.org to get more information and report the scammers.

By Brian Summerfield, REALTOR® Magazine http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2012/01/13/4-ways-id-borrower-assistance-scammers

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 08 2011
Some scam artists are preying on home owners looking to refinance using the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program. As such, federal agencies are banding together forming a task force aimed at cracking down on con artists who are falsely claiming they can save home owners’ mortgages through HAMP, HousingWire reports.

The new task force recently issued a warning to home owners looking to refinance their mortgage: Only your mortgage servicer can grant you a loan modification through HAMP so don’t be duped by scam artists saying they can help with HAMP. Any third-party promising to guarantee a loan modification or pre-approve a loan modification or trying to charge an advance fee for a loan modification may be involved in a scam, the agencies warned in a public statement.

The task force cautions home owners to "beware of individuals or companies that ask you for payment and tout success rates or claim to be experts in HAMP."

The federal agencies involved in the HAMP fraud investigations are the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Department of the Treasury.

To check on the validity of companies or individuals who display HAMP seals or logos, call the HOPE hotline, 888-995-HOPE.

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2011/12/02/federal-agencies-crack-down-hamp-fraud

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, September 27 2011

Crooks go where the money is. So with Americans spending as much as $22 billion a year on construction projects, it’s no surprise that home improvement has become a favorite target for fraud artists. Some of these shady characters use amazingly well-polished contractor scams that are tricky to spot until it’s too late.

The vast majority of contractors are honest, hardworking professionals. Protecting yourself against the few bad apples requires checking references, having a solid contract, and being alert to the warning signs of these top five contractor scams.

Scam 1: I’ll need the money up front

This is the most common ruse reported to the Better Business Bureau. Your contractor explains that because he has to order materials and rent earthmoving equipment to get the job started, he needs, say, 30% to 50% of the project price up front. Once you’ve forked over the dough, one of two things happens: He disappears on you, or he starts doing slapdash work knowing that you can’t really fire him because he’s sitting on thousands of your dollars.

How to protect yourself: Never prepay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is less. That’s the legal maximum in some states, and enough to establish that you’re a serious customer so the contractor can work you into his schedule—the only valid purpose of an advance payment. As to the materials and backhoe rentals, if he’s a professional in good standing, his suppliers will provide them on credit.

Scam 2: Take my word for it

When you first meet with the contractor, he’s very agreeable about doing everything exactly to your specifications and even suggests his own extra touches and upgrades. Some of the details don’t make it into the contract, but you figure it doesn’t matter because you had such a clear verbal understanding.

Pretty soon, you notice that the extras you’d discussed aren’t being built. When you confront the contractor, he tells you that he didn’t include those features in his price, so you’ll have to live without them or pony up additional money to redo the work.

How to protect yourself: Unfortunately, you have no legal recourse because you signed a contract that didn’t include all the details. Next time, make sure everything you’ve agreed on is written into the project description. Add any items that are missing, put your initials next to each addition, and have the contractor initial it, too—all before you sign.

Scam 3: I don’t need to pull a permit

You’re legally required to get a building permit for any significant construction project. That allows building officials to visit the site periodically to confirm that the work meets safety codes.

On small interior jobs, an unlicensed contractor may try to skirt the rule by telling you that authorities won’t notice. On large jobs that can’t be hidden, the contractor may try another strategy and ask you to apply for a homeowner’s permit, an option available to do-it-yourselfers.

But taking out your own permit for a contractor job means lying to authorities about who’s doing the work. And it makes you responsible for monitoring all the inspections—since the contractor doesn’t answer to the inspector, you do.

How to protect yourself: Always demand that the contractor get a building permit. Yes, it informs the local tax assessor about your upgrade, but it weeds out unlicensed contractors and gives you the added protection of an independent assessment of the work.

Scam 4: We ran into unforeseen problems

The job is already under way, perhaps even complete, when this one hits. Suddenly your contractor informs you that the agreed-upon price has skyrocketed. He blames the discovery of structural problems, like a missing beam or termite damage, or design changes that you made after the job began.

The additional fees might very well be legit, but some unscrupulous contractors bid jobs low to get the work and then find excuses to jack up the price later. If you’re unsure whether your contractor is telling the truth about structural problems, you can get an impartial opinion from a home inspector, the local branch of the National Association of Home Builders, or even your local building department.

How to protect yourself: Before signing the contract, make sure it includes a procedure for change orders—mini-contracts containing a work description and a fixed price—for anything that gets added to the job in progress. The extra work, whether it’s related to unforeseen building issues or homeowner whims, can proceed only after the change order is signed by both homeowner and contractor.

Scam 5: I’ve got extra materials I can sell you cheap

This hoax is usually run by driveway paving companies, whose materials—hot-top asphalt and concrete—can’t be returned to the supplier. So the crew pulls up to your house with a load of leftover product and quotes a great price to resurface your driveway on the spot.

Even if it’s really a bargain (by no means a sure thing), taking them up on the offer is risky if you have no idea who they are and haven’t checked references. And if the driveway starts cracking next year, you can bet you won’t find this bunch again.

How to protect yourself: Never hire a contractor on the spot, whether it’s a driveway paver, an emergency repairman who shows up after a major storm, or a landscaper with surplus plantings. Take your time to check contractors out to make sure they have a good reputation and do quality work.


A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He’s currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.

Source: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/top-5-contractor-scams-and-how-avoid-them/6/

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, June 28 2011
It used to be that when you wanted to find an apartment for rent, buy a used car, or pick up used, secondhand items like furniture or a washer and dryer, you looked in the classified section of the newspaper. But like with most other things these days, the Internet has taken over and made things even easier.

Nowadays, if you’re looking for any of these things, the best place to look is probably Craigslist, an online classified site categorized by city.

However, the technology that has made it easier to find what you need has also made it easier for scammers to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Craigslist is a perfect example of that. On any day of the week, you can find hundreds of local listings that include apartment and home rentals, cars for sale, concert and play tickets, jobs, and every conceivable secondhand item you can think of. But scammers are very creative and have put together elaborate rouses to trick even the savviest buyer.

The good news is that you don’t have to avoid Craigslist and all of its wonderful opportunities to avoid being “taken.” You just need to know what to look for.

Here’s a rundown of the most common Craigslist scams along with advice on how to avoid them.

Source: http://www.moneycrashers.com/types-common-craigslist-scams/

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, June 22 2011
Some home owners are getting a surprise when a person shows up on their doorstep, with a lease agreement in hand, saying that he or she is renting out their home, which isn’t for rent but for sale.

Law enforcement and real estate professionals are finding a growing scam involving for-sale listings being promoted as rentals--without home owners’ consent.

Scammers are taking listing information of homes for-sale--including photos--and then reposting that information on rental sites and tweaking it to pass the home off as a rental. The scammers then use a fake lease agreement and collect rent from unsuspecting consumers.

And when the scammers don’t present keys for the property, they give the unsuspecting renter permission to call a locksmith to gain access to the home.

Les Sulgrove, president of the Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS®, recently issued a warning to association members about the scam. He suggested real estate professionals set up Google alerts for the home addresses they’re listing so they’ll learn if their clients’ information is being misused on another site.

“All it takes is cutting, pasting, and changing some key pieces of data,” Geoff Greenwood, spokesperson for the Iowa Attorney General’s office, told the Des Moines Register. “People find out the hard way what they paid for wasn’t for sale or for rent.”

Source: “Growing Online Scam Uses Legitimate for-sale Home Listings to Trick Renters,” Des Moines Register (June 5, 2011)
http://www.realtor.org/RMODaily.nsf/pages/News2011060901?OpenDocument
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, April 15 2011

It's a sign of the season: outdoor home improvement scams.  Police say as the temps warm up, the fraud cases pile up.

False promises cost an Evansville woman thousands after she agreed to hand over checks to a local contractor.

Door-to-door scams often begin with a stranger knocking at your front door, but not this time.

Instead, Dorothy Elzer says it was a familiar face.  "Seems like I had known him," said the 86-year-old woman.  Elzer says she had seen the contractor around her neighborhood doing work for others.

He pointed out a roofing problem.  "Well, he said if I didn't get it fixed it would be leaking."

She was sold and agreed to hire the apparent handyman to repair her roof.  Elzer says she can't write as well as she used to, so she handed over several blank checks to pay for the supplies and labor.

They negotiated a price, but it wasn't the $6,000 now missing out of her account.

Elzer says was never given any receipts detailing the completed work or supplies purchased.  Evansville Police officers are now working this as a theft and home improvement fraud case.

"Some checks had been written for roofing that was never performed for the house," says Karen Kajmowicz, EPD Public Information Officer.

She says investigators have a person of interest they're looking for, but aren't identifying any names just yet.   Police reports list Thrifty Roofing & Construction as the listed company.

"We're working on a few different leads so there's a possibility we'll be able to find out who this was," Kajmowicz says.

NEWS 25 contacted Thrifty Roofing.  The phone line appears to be disconnected.

Police caution everyone to ask for references before agreeing to any door-to-door salesman work.

Source: http://www.news25.us/Global/story.asp?S=14399751

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, November 01 2010

With a national unemployment rate hovering around 9% and increased confusion in the marketplace surrounding foreclosure processing and bank foreclosure freezes, loan modification scam artists continue to adapt their messaging and high-pressure sales tactics to take advantage of home owners who are struggling or unable to make their mortgage payments each month.

“Loan modification scam artists are slick and relentless. They are using every trick in the book to prey upon home owners during a very stressful time,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of NeighborWorks® America. “Consumers need to learn the warning signs of a loan modification scam, and report the scam artists that they encounter so they can protect themselves, and their friends and family, when seeking a solution to foreclosure or seeking a loan modification.”

Loan modification scam tricks aren’t always easy to spot. The warning signs include:

  • Asking for a fee in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance, or reinstate your mortgage. They may pocket your money and do little or nothing to help you save your home from foreclosure.
  • They tell you to pay them instead of the mortgage. Never send a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage lender. The minute you have trouble making your monthly payment, contact your mortgage lender.
  • A promise to stop foreclosure or get your loan modified. Nobody can guarantee to stop foreclosure or modify your loan. Legitimate, trustworthy HUD-approved counseling agencies will only promise they will try their very best to help you.
  • Claims that they offer a “government-approved” or “official government” loan modification. Your lender can tell you whether you qualify for any government programs to prevent foreclosure. Remember, you do not have to pay to benefit from government-backed loan modification programs.

Where should home owners turn when facing foreclosure or seeking a loan modification? HUD-approved nonprofit housing counselors in their community offer free help to home owners facing foreclosure.

Counselors work one-on-one with their clients to examine their financial outlook and determine the best option for the home owner, whether it’s a loan modification, forbearance, or any other tools that their bank currently offers to home owners in danger of foreclosure.

To find a nonprofit housing counseling organization in your community, visit www.LoanScamAlert.org or call the HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              888-995-HOPE      end_of_the_skype_highlighting (4673) to speak to a HUD-approved nonprofit housing counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and 20 additional languages.

For more information about loan modification scams, the warning signs of loan scams, and the Loan Scam Alert campaign, visit www.LoanScamAlert.org. Consumers can also report loan modification scam artists on LoanScamAlert.org.

The campaign web site is also available in Spanish at www.AlertaFraudedeHipoteca.org. Campaign materials are also available in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Source: NeighborWorks® America



Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/news/articles/would-you-recognize-foreclosure-scam/#ixzz142o9pMDe
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 10:16 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 19 2010

Refinancing a mortgage to a lower interest rate can make sense for some homeowners. So too can taking out a home equity loan against the value you’ve built up, perhaps to finance a kitchen remodel or pay Junior’s college tuition. What doesn’t make sense is losing your home because you fall for home equity loan and refinancing scams such as loan flipping and equity stripping. Although scam artists can be very convincing, homeowners who know what to look out for are less likely to become victims.

 

Loan flipping

Loan flipping is a scam targeted at homeowners looking to get money back when they refinance a mortgage. This is often referred to as a cash-out refi. Scammers take advantage of this desire to tap the equity in a home to pay for things the homeowner couldn’t otherwise afford.

A cash-out refi in itself isn’t a scam. For some, it’s a smart way to borrow. What is a scam is when a lender, after receiving a few payments, comes back to you with an offer of another refinance, this time to fund a vacation or a new car. The easy money is difficult for some homeowners to turn down.

Many borrowers don’t realize how much they’re paying in fees to refinance. The U.S. Federal Reserve estimates the settlement costs on a typical refi to be 3% to 6% of the loan amount. Loan flippers often charge much more, plus they may quietly roll the settlement costs into the loan to disguise the total charges. Take a day or two to get quotes from several lenders and compare terms.

Loan flipping ultimately leaves you with more debt and more years that you’ll owe on that debt. When the equity finally dries up, you might not be able to afford your higher monthly payments and another refinancing will be impossible. You could be forced to sell your home.

Equity stripping

Equity stripping can occur in several ways, but at its heart is a scam artist who gains ownership of your home, borrows against it or sells it, pockets the proceeds, and disappears. You’re often left with a hefty mortgage balance and no place to live.

A telling sign of equity stripping is a lender that offers more loan than you can afford or that encourages you to pad your income on a loan application. Homeowners with low incomes but a good amount of equity built up are prime targets because they otherwise would have a hard time borrowing. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a lender that’s pushing a home loan with too-high monthly payments is likely counting of foreclosing on the property when you fall behind.

A variation on equity stripping has a scam artist talking you into selling your home at a discount or signing over the deed, perhaps with a promise of securing better loan terms if your name isn’t on it. The scammer promises to let you stay in the home as a renter until the refinancing is finalized, then you can buy back the home. In reality, the scam artist drains equity by borrowing against the house or selling the house, perhaps after evicting you.

According to Consumers Union, don’t agree to a home equity loan if you can’t afford it. A good rule of thumb: Your combined home loan payments shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross income. The nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine also warns against signing any documents unless you understand them and turning over you property to anyone without first consulting a trusted adviser.

Phantom help

Watch out for unsolicited offers to refinance from companies claiming government affiliations. In particular, don’t be fooled by the use of official-sounding acronyms like “TARP” or official-looking website addresses. Scammers use these to gain your trust. Once they do, they’ll likely try to charge you for access to government assistance. Worse, they might extract enough personal information to commit identity theft.

You never need to pay to find out about legitimate government programs. A housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can point you in the right direction. For federal refinancing and loan modification help, check out the Making Home Affordable program.

New disclosure rules make spotting scams easier

Many unscrupulous lenders have relied on confusing paperwork to dupe borrowers into paying excessive upfront fees on loans. Others would pull last-minute rate switches at closing. Still others would disguise prepayment penalties, which can prove costly if you ever try to refinance again or retire a loan early.

Balloon payments, which come due at the end of a loan term, can also catch borrowers off-guard. A lender may offer a low monthly payment on an equity loan, but only because the payment is interest-only. The principal is due in one lump sum. Surprised homeowners must scramble to refinance again, tap other assets, or sell.

Disclosure rules that went into effect Jan. 1, 2010, make spotting these types of deceptions easier. All lenders are required to use redesigned Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Statement forms that clearly disclose key loan terms—including interest rates, prepayment penalties, and balloon payments—and closing costs.

The GFE is an estimate of loan terms and closing costs, while the HUD-1 is a final accounting of terms and costs. The redesigned forms, cross-referenced by line number, must be used for mortgage refinancing and home equity loans (with the exception of home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs). The only fee a lender is allowed to collect to issue a GFE is a charge for a credit report, which averages $37.

If you don’t receive the new forms, don’t do business with the lender. If the estimates on the GFE don’t match the final figures on the HUD-1, ask why. Some, but not all, fees are allowed to increase within a fixed range.

Donna Fuscaldo has written about personal finance for Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox Business News for more than a decade. Like many homeowners, her mortgage is precariously close to being underwater.



Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/avoid-home-equity-loan-and-refinancing-scams/#ixzz0zngXkMoC
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 30 2010

 

A federal program that lets homeowners finance energy improvements and pay back the money via the tax assessment system leaves homeowners vulnerable to fraud and lending abuse, the trade group for title insurers says.

The American Land Title Association says federal authorities need to resolve issues with the Property Assessed Clean Energy program to prevent the program’s potential risks from delaying or cancelling real estate transactions.

“We recognize the value in lowering energy costs for consumers, creating jobs for the economy and reducing buildings’ carbon footprint for the environment,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, chief executive officer of the American Land Title Association. “However, guidance is needed in resolving uncertainty surrounding these programs.”

ALTA sent a letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency questioning how a PACE lien is created, how it’s administered, and how local jurisdictions will record the payoff of PACE loans. ALTA is concerned consumers in the PACE program are not getting Good Faith Estimates and HUD-1 Settlement Statements. Lenders, meanwhile, have questions about which liens get paid if the homeowner goes into default on the mortgage, the PACE loan, or both.

“This information allows consumers and lenders to make an informed decision about purchasing a property or providing mortgage financing,” Pfotenhauer said. “This uncertainty increases the potential of impeding or preventing real estate transactions.”

ALTA also questioned whether PACE liens must be recorded in the local public records and how ownership of the property is determined. “Without establishing standards for determining title to property, PACE loans run the risk of significant losses due to fraud,” Pfotenhauer said. “In addition to harming PACE participants, it also damages local property records, and results in increased costs of underwriting, claims, escrow services and compliance for the land title industry.”

Source: ALTA



Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/news/articles/federal-energy-efficiency-loans-leave-homeowners-open-fraud-title-group-says/#ixzz0v0k6Yd6e
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, June 03 2010

Home equity loan and refinancing scams can cost you more than money—these scams can cost you your house.

Refinancing a mortgage to a lower interest rate can make sense for some homeowners. So too can taking out a home equity loan against the value you’ve built up, perhaps to finance a kitchen remodel or pay Junior’s college tuition. What doesn’t make sense is losing your home because you fall for home equity loan and refinancing scams such as loan flipping and equity stripping. Although scam artists can be very convincing, homeowners who know what to look out for are less likely to become victims.

 

Loan flipping

Loan flipping is a scam targeted at homeowners looking to get money back when they refinance a mortgage. This is often referred to as a cash-out refi. Scammers take advantage of this desire to tap the equity in a home to pay for things the homeowner couldn’t otherwise afford.

A cash-out refi in itself isn’t a scam. For some, it’s a smart way to borrow. What is a scam is when a lender, after receiving a few payments, comes back to you with an offer of another refinance, this time to fund a vacation or a new car. The easy money is difficult for some homeowners to turn down.

Many borrowers don’t realize how much they’re paying in fees to refinance. The U.S. Federal Reserve estimates the settlement costs on a typical refi to be 3% to 6% of the loan amount. Loan flippers often charge much more, plus they may quietly roll the settlement costs into the loan to disguise the total charges. Take a day or two to get quotes from several lenders and compare terms.

Loan flipping ultimately leaves you with more debt and more years that you’ll owe on that debt. When the equity finally dries up, you might not be able to afford your higher monthly payments and another refinancing will be impossible. You could be forced to sell your home.

Equity stripping

Equity stripping can occur in several ways, but at its heart is a scam artist who gains ownership of your home, borrows against it or sells it, pockets the proceeds, and disappears. You’re often left with a hefty mortgage balance and no place to live.

A telling sign of equity stripping is a lender that offers more loan than you can afford or that encourages you to pad your income on a loan application. Homeowners with low incomes but a good amount of equity built up are prime targets because they otherwise would have a hard time borrowing. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a lender that’s pushing a home loan with too-high monthly payments is likely counting of foreclosing on the property when you fall behind.

A variation on equity stripping has a scam artist talking you into selling your home at a discount or signing over the deed, perhaps with a promise of securing better loan terms if your name isn’t on it. The scammer promises to let you stay in the home as a renter until the refinancing is finalized, then you can buy back the home. In reality, the scam artist drains equity by borrowing against the house or selling the house, perhaps after evicting you.

According to Consumers Union, don’t agree to a home equity loan if you can’t afford it. A good rule of thumb: Your combined home loan payments shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross income. The nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine also warns against signing any documents unless you understand them and turning over you property to anyone without first consulting a trusted adviser.

Phantom help

Watch out for unsolicited offers to refinance from companies claiming government affiliations. In particular, don’t be fooled by the use of official-sounding acronyms like “TARP” or official-looking website addresses. Scammers use these to gain your trust. Once they do, they’ll likely try to charge you for access to government assistance. Worse, they might extract enough personal information to commit identity theft.

You never need to pay to find out about legitimate government programs. A housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can point you in the right direction. For federal refinancing and loan modification help, check out the Making Home Affordable program.

New disclosure rules make spotting scams easier

Many unscrupulous lenders have relied on confusing paperwork to dupe borrowers into paying excessive upfront fees on loans. Others would pull last-minute rate switches at closing. Still others would disguise prepayment penalties, which can prove costly if you ever try to refinance again or retire a loan early.

Balloon payments, which come due at the end of a loan term, can also catch borrowers off-guard. A lender may offer a low monthly payment on an equity loan, but only because the payment is interest-only. The principal is due in one lump sum. Surprised homeowners must scramble to refinance again, tap other assets, or sell.

Disclosure rules that went into effect Jan. 1, 2010, make spotting these types of deceptions easier. All lenders are required to use redesigned Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Statement forms that clearly disclose key loan terms—including interest rates, prepayment penalties, and balloon payments—and closing costs.

The GFE is an estimate of loan terms and closing costs, while the HUD-1 is a final accounting of terms and costs. The redesigned forms, cross-referenced by line number, must be used for mortgage refinancing and home equity loans (with the exception of home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs). The only fee a lender is allowed to collect to issue a GFE is a charge for a credit report, which averages $37.

If you don’t receive the new forms, don’t do business with the lender. If the estimates on the GFE don’t match the final figures on the HUD-1, ask why. Some, but not all, fees are allowed to increase within a fixed range.

Donna Fuscaldo has written about personal finance for Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox Business News for more than a decade. Like many homeowners, her mortgage is precariously close to being underwater.

Source: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/avoid-home-equity-loan-and-refinancing-scams/

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 02:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, September 18 2009

The local FBI and computer repair shops are being swarmed with calls regarding an email you don't want to open. This scam isn't about tricking you into revealing personal information, all they want you to do is open the email.

The email poses as an FBI agency or some sort of government authority. Inside they may ask you to send money, or personal information. However, if you opened the email they could already have all the information they need to steal your savings.

Scam emails have been circulating throughout the Tri-state for several weeks. The sender falsely claims to be an FBI agent. “They may claim to be the FBI, the IRS, The Secret Service. In any case, these institutions would never contact you by email," said Detective Kurt Pritchett with EPD.

Pritchett says, if someone see's a reputable company on the email like the FBI for example, they're more likely to open it. That's exactly what scam artists want. "This type of email contains software that can be like a Trojan Horse or something where they can gain access to your computer,” he said.

This means, hackers can steal your personal information and your bank account numbers just because you opened an email. The FBI has received several hundred calls about this scam. Over the past few weeks, numerous calls have came to computer repair shops like PC Quest. "One gentleman called and said he clicked on some FBI email and now his computer is frozen. His computer wouldn't let him out of the program," said Angie Tennison the manager of PC Quest.

To keep this from happening, officials say do not open emails from anyone you do not know. Plus, make sure your computer has a reputable anti-virus running at all times. If you get the FBI scam delete it. If you've already opened it go ahead and delete it anyway, run a virus scan and call your computer technician.

Source: http://tristatehomepage.com/content/fulltext/?cid=96231

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:50 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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The Trentini Team
F.C. Tucker EMGE REALTORS®
7820 Eagle Crest Bvd., Suite 200
Evansville, IN 47715
Office: (812) 479-0801
Cell: (812) 499-9234
Email: Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com


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