N.Y. (WETM) — The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection released a guide to help homeowners avoid falling victim to scams.
“Scammers are always looking for new ways to take advantage of consumers, and homeowners are often targeted for their personal information, money or property,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said. “Whether you’re a new homeowner or you’ve owned your property for decades, it’s important to take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself from nefarious scammers so you don’t lose out on thousands of dollars, or even worse, your home.”
The Division of Consumer Protection’s guide tells homeowners to protect their properties from deed theft and fraud. Scammers commit deed fraud by forging signatures or by tricking people into unknowingly signing paperwork that transfers the deed to the scammer. There are red flags that could indicate that the person you’re working with may be trying to steal your deed. If someone asks you to transfer your property rights to them, asks for upfront fees to modify your mortgage, pressures you to sign over your deed, or pressures you to sign paperwork you didn’t read or don’t understand, this person could be trying to commit deed fraud.
You can monitor your deed with your local county clerk’s office. They will provide you with property records so you can check to see if your deed was subject to theft or fraud. If you need any help with housing counseling or legal assistance, the New York State Homeowner Protection Program can assist you for free.
Homeowners should be careful when refinancing their homes. Always do plenty of research and shop around for the best loan for you before refinancing. All mortgage brokers and loan originators should be licensed. Make sure anyone you’re dealing with while refinancing is in the National Mortgage Licensing System and Registry’s database.
Sometimes a loan with interest rates well below market rates is too good to be true. There could be hidden fees or the offer could be fraudulent. Before agreeing to refinancing terms, make sure you see everything in writing. The guide says that the Federal Trade Commission requires lenders to clearly disclose any changes to your loan along with the fee you will be charged for their services. Lenders must also warn you that if you stop paying your mortgage you could damage your credit and lose your home.
If you do fall behind on your mortgage, be weary of scammers looking to take advantage of your vulnerability. The Division of Consumer Protection recommends contacting your lender, a certified housing counselor, or the New York State Homeowner Protection Program if you do fall behind on payments. No one legitimate will ever contact you to fix your default or foreclosure. Stick to the resources the Division of Consumer Protection recommends working with. Never pay upfront for mortgage relief services either.
If you are facing a foreclosure, you should learn your rights by reading the Residential Foreclosure Actions Consumer Bill of Rights. If your home is in default or foreclosure and you plan to sell it, the sale could be protected. You should review the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act to see if your home is protected.
For more tips to avoid scams, you can visit the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection website. If you think you are being targeted by a scammer or have been scammed, you can also file a complaint on their website.