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When It’s Too Good to Be True: Foreclosure Equity Scams

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You’ve always paid your mortgage on time but now you find yourself unemployed.  You’ve tapped out your savings. You haven’t paid your mortgage in 3-months and discovered a Notice of Default in your mail.  Not only are you put on notice of a default, but since this notice is also recorded with your County Recorder’s office, there are others on the lookout, too.

Take the experience of Charleen Trana, a 78 year-old widow living in her San Fernando home of 50 years, worth at least $350,000.  Because her disabled son was having difficulty maintaining jobs, Trana took out a $100,000 mortgage on her home to help him.  However, when Trana’s health began to fail, her costs skyrocketed.  She fell behind in her mortgage payments. Trana received a notice of default, but that wasn’t all that she received.  Some very nice men approached her days later and offered to rescue her home from foreclosure. Desperate, Trana signed her property deed over to these men for a small sum down.  She also signed inch-thick documents with the promise that these rescuers would not only pay off her mortgage but, in exchange for rent, Trana could continue to live in her home.  But, there was a catch; the rescuers failed to pay-off the mortgage, leaving Trana on the hook both for the mortgage and the rent while they held the deed (and equity) to her home!

Trana’s story is not atypical.  Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just announced a new crackdown in foreclosure equity stripping schemes.  (Federal and State Agencies Crack Down on Mortgage Modification and Foreclosure Rescue Scams)  One of these schemes concerns loan modification scams.  Firms involved in these scams use on-line ads, spam, and direct mail targeted to homeowners in financial distress, promising high success rates at modifying their mortgages and saving their homes.

While LegalMatch does not specifically track foreclosure equity scams, we have had an explosion of customers contact us during the past year either because a foreclosure had been filed against them or because there was a foreclosure judgment.



If you suspect that you’ve been approached by a rescuer, contact your local District Attorney and report the individual(s) to the FTC.  If you’ve been a victim of a loan modification or a foreclosure equity scam, you may either be able to file criminal charges or bring a lawsuit against the rescuer for damages.  LegalMatch has many experienced real estate attorneys who can assist you in determining the best course of legal action.  Whatever you do, don’t sign your property deed over until you’ve consulted your local agency or licensed attorney to ensure that you aren’t a victim of a foreclosure equity scam!

Federal Trade Commission Home Equity Scams

National Consumer Law Center

U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Guide to Avoiding Foreclosures


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