If Nigerian money transfers and fake refinancing promotions weren’t enough, scammers keep coming up with still more ways to defraud and otherwise take advantage of unwary or struggling homeowners and income property investors. Now, new warnings about real estate scams focus on ways fake real estate attorneys – and some real ones too – are bilking big money from homeowners and buyers through intimidation and scare tactics.
Owners of property – whether residential or income – can b faced with mortgage trouble for a variety of reasons: loss of a job, a downturn in the rental market, or problems with the property itself, among others. Getting help to deal with the problem can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience, and many find it too intimidating and complex to negotiate the process on their own.
That’s where scammers come in. When a homeowner goes looking for information on refinancing, mortgage modification or other kinds of help, usually online, a number of “experts” pop up, warning that they need the help of an attorney to avoid losing money or facing legal consequences. Local ads for mortgages and notices also target the unwary and the frightened.
The scammer, posing as an attorney specializing in real estate law, offers to take care of the entire process for a fee, usually exorbitant. In some cases, the client may get services in exchange — but sometimes they don’t. And the scammers disappear, leaving victims with no recourse.
This kind of fraud isn’t limited to true scam artists, though. Fraud experts point out that legitimate attorneys may also offer services like that in an attempt to make more fees. In any case, consumers need to be cautious about offers of third-party legal assistance in applying for mortgages and other kinds of housing transactions. Although these processes cane time consuming and frustrating, consumer advocates point out that help is available for free from lenders and refinancing programs as well as housing advocacy groups and consumer organizations – resources that can be used by both homeowners and investors.
As in all housing transactions, Jason Hartman’s recommendations to get educated about the process and get the advice you need to avoid trouble can help homeowner and investors to avoid scams by shady lawyers and outright con artists. Research resources, investigate anyone promising to handle your business for a fee, and report any suspicions of unethical or fraudulent activities to local and federal watchdogs. Old scammers never go away; they just learn new tricks. (Top image:Flickr/CathieRhodes)
The Jason Hartman Team