It was with much fanfare last month that Congress and the Obama administration passed laws putting into effect government programs to help American homeowners with their mortgages. Both The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were front page news all over the country. A lot of this publicity was due to the fact that Americans have started to perceive the government as helping out Wall Street and big banks more than they are helping ordinary taxpayers and homeowners who did nothing wrong during the housing bubble and subsequent market collapse and banking collapse.
However, the same publicity also made it easier for scammers and dishonest marketers to take advantage of people’s hopes by pretending to have something to do with the government programs when, in fact, they are either outright scams to steal your money or steal your identity, or they are mortgage brokers or mortgage companies that have nothing to do with the government mortgage aid programs trying to insinuate that they are part of those programs. Unfortunately, many people are falling victim to these con artists and their tricks.
How To Protect Yourself From Scams, Thieves, and Con Artists Using Government Mortgage Aid Lies
First, understand the facts about how people take advantage of these government mortgage aid programs. There ARE NO EMAILS of any kind being sent to homeowners by any government agency or banking institution associated with the programs. None, zero, zip, nadda. Any email that you get of any kind, from anyone, no matter how official sounding or looking is a scam. Delete it immediately.
Second, there are no checks being issued to homeowners. Some mailings include checks that ask you to call a toll-free number for some official sounding reason. When you do, they will ask you to deposit the check, but wire some money to another account for some reason. This is a scam. The check will bounce and your wire transfer money will disappear. NO CHECKS ARE BEING SENT TO HOMEOWNERS by the government or banks. Any and all help you might be eligible for will come in the form of a refinanced loan or a load modification. Either way, there is no check involved.
Third, is junk mail designed to look like it has something to do with the government’s mortgage aid programs, but carefully worded to actually just mislead you into thinking this without actually saying it. These come from banks and mortgage brokers and mortgage companies. They are nothing more than junk mail hoping to get you to refinance with them, most likely at a higher interest rate and with higher closing costs than you could get elsewhere. There is no proactive attempt of any kind going on to contact homeowners in this way. Anything that is sent via 3rd class mail, or bulk mail of any kind is clearly not from the government or banks. It is junk mail, throw it away (actually, shred it). Even mail sent first class is most likely fake junk mail.
Use these guidelines to see if the offer you have received MIGHT be legitimate. You will still have to follow up with your mortgage company, but if any of these apply, don’t even bother, what you have gotten is phony.
- Only Mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are eligible. If yours isn’t, there is no aid program for you.
- The official title of the Government Refinancing program is “The Home Affordable Refinance” program. Scammers will carefully avoid using those exact words to avoid fraud liability.The overall program name (both loan modification and refinance) is “Making Home Affordable”, again, scammer will avoid the exact wording. If those exact words are not used, then you are holding onto a scam.
- There is no charge, no fee, and no up front payment of any kind. Anything asking you to send money is a scam.
- There is no need for you to send your personal information to anyone. The government and the banks already have your name, address, and social security number. There is no need to “verify” this information for any reason. Anyone calling on the phone, or any mailing asking you to reveal your social security number for any reason including verifying your identity is a scam.
The best way to avoid scams is to look-up your lender’s phone number independently (do not use the number provided which obviously rings where the scammers want it to ring) and call them to ask if you qualify.
Remember, there are no government mailings, government phone calls, or government emails of any kind. Anyone saying differently is a con artist, fraud, and liar. Hang up, shred, or delete immediately and save your money and your identity.