Tag Archives: scams

New Mortgage Scams Surface

The TODAY Show aired another set of warnings about mortgage scams on May 27, 2009. The expert reports there are currently millions of Americans on the brink of foreclosure and some illegitimate “Foreclosure Consultants” are taking advantage of their dire situations.

  • WHN Tip: Contact your lender directly before you get behind in your mortgage payments. Ask for options to renegotiate the terms of your loan.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran outlined the newest scam along with several that have been wreaking havoc with desperate homeowners for months.

The latest scam involves President Obama’s Rescue Plan designed to help seven to nine million families avoid foreclosure. People are paying thousands of dollars to illegitimate counselors who promise to research facts about qualification and the application process. Of course, they don’t conduct the research and, instead, keep the money.

The information you need is free and can be accessed in two simple ways. First, the Internet site makinghomeaffordable.gov provides everything you need to know. Second, a call to 888-995-HOPE delivers the same assistance.

Make sure you are visiting a legitimate website. The scam artists often create websites with official-sounding addresses that may end with “.gov”. Don’t assume a site with this type of name is legitimate. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a site, conduct a Google search with the name and the word “scam” or just search “mortgage scams”. Go to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission sites as well.

One of the most dangerous scams is called “Bait and Switch”. An illegitimate counselor hands the prospect a document to sign. Instead of a mortgage application, the document is actually a transfer of title. Once signed, the scam artist owns your home and you are evicted.

A “Rent-to-Buy” scheme is equally dangerous. The representative offers to buy your home at a very low price and promises to sell it back when you get on your feet. In the meantime, they propose you pay rent. Soon, the rent soars well beyond your means, they own the home and you are evicted.

The “Middleman” scam preys upon your vulnerability and lack of self-confidence. Besides requiring you to pay thousands upfront, you are required to supply confidential information such as your social security numbers, bank account numbers and/or driver’s license details. (WHN NOTE: Never release your confidential information until you are certain the company is legitimate and it will not be used for identity theft.) The illegitimate counselor then tells you to “leave it to me” and collects your mortgage payments with a promise to pay the bank while they renegotiate your loan for you. Of course, they take your money and your confidential information and disappear. They had no intention of ever speaking with your bank.

In the “Bankruptcy” scheme, the scammer promises to work with the lender on your behalf. Instead, they file bankruptcy on your behalf and you lose both your home and your credit rating.

According to Barbara Corcoran, there are legitimate mortgage consultants in the country. WHN recommends that you start by working directly with your lender or the government. Again, the information is free and readily available. You can make a few calls or visit the legitimate websites to get the ball rolling without spending a dime.

There are websites to help identify scams and provide advice about how to safely deal with a mortgage renegotiation or refinance. One to visit is scambusters.

If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Job Scams Continue to Thrive.

Hello – I have written to WHN about job scams, but it’s time for an update.

The major news organizations are reporting that the number and sophistication of job scams continues to increase. Too many of us are becoming more desperate to find work and the scammers are taking advantage of the situation.

Their tactics usually involve posing as a legitimate company, sometimes as large as Bank of America or US Bank. They often use actual corporate logos on websites and in emails.

The scams have several things in common. One of the major red flags is requiring you to spend money once you are “hired”. You may even have to purchase software and specific paper to do your “job”. Some may include wiring cash through Western Union (which is not even involved in the scam!). Most scams are hidden under a work-from-home or start-your-own-business banner. Many promise huge returns on your investment.

Another warning sign is their requirement that you provide personal information such as your social security number, driver’s license number, bank-account details, date of birth, etc.

  • WHN TIP: Don’t provide personal information in response to an emailed job “offer” or through a job-related website. Legitimate offers don’t ask for this data until you have been interviewed, hired and are ready to start work.

If an offer looks too good to be true, it usually is. Check the potential employer out thoroughly. Make sure the website you may have been referred to is the company’s official site (and be careful – because sometimes these aren’t real either!). Google the company’s name along with the word “scam”. Check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org and the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.

  • WHN TIP: Never pay money to start a job. The only reasons to spend money on employment might be to start your own business or to purchase a legitimate franchise (that you have thoroughly researched).

News broadcasts are reporting that Americans are falling for scams – and there are even music videos being done in Nigeria (one of the hotbeds of scams) which boast about how much money they are getting from the “dumb Americans”.

Whether the inquiry or offer comes via telephone, email or mail, remember to do your homework. People have lost thousands to these scammers and most of us cannot afford to take a risk. These are cases where the saying “you have to spend money to make money” does not apply.

- Thanks for the update WHN Reader!

  • WHN TIP: Being out of work can sometimes cause you to feel isolated. There is a great website available to people who would like to network and have fun at the same time. The site lists groups of all interests. If you like to play cards, exercise, kayak, take photos, rock-climb, etc., you will probably find a group to join at www.meetup.com. Simply enter your zip code and interest on the home page to see a list of groups near you. Registration is free and easy. (See the site’s policy statement for more information.) A cost would only be incurred if you choose a group that charges a fee for membership. The site allows you to indicate the number of miles you are willing to travel from your zip code. Check it out!

If you have an experience you would like to share, email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Job Scams on the Rise

Here are some insights and smart tips from a reader who is navigating life after being laid off – and wanted to share what s/he is seeing.

With the increasing unemployment rate comes the proliferation of new scams.

Nearly every day, I receive emails from people in various countries around the world with similarly strange “offers”.

For example – after posting my resume online at the usual outlets, one gentleman claimed to be representing a ‘client’ who wanted information about an industry I am very familiar with. He asked if I could make a determination about hedge funds. First – I don’t analyze hedge funds and second, it was difficult to understand the man on the phone who claimed he was calling from India. I told him that I would like to do some research and call him back. He informed me that I couldn’t call him back (he was “in India”), but I could call his colleague in South America.

Right….

My concern is that there are people who are in a state of desperation and they will pursue opportunities that aren’t real or safe.

The Better Business Bureau is warning that bogus work-at-home scams are much more prevalent now. Some of the schemes involve innocent people in criminal activities without their knowledge.

At the same time, own-your-own-business scams are spreading. Disguised under other titles, many of them are really pyramid schemes, chain letters and multi-level marketing. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission warn that if you earn commissions primarily by recruiting others and not by selling goods or services, the enterprise is probably illegal. In 2007, the FTC reported nearly 3,100 complaints about this type of scam and they predict the number will be higher for 2008.

From the experts, words of caution:

  • Never, for any reason, give your social security number, date of birth or bank-account number unless you know for certain that they are going to be used for something legitimate such as applying for a mortgage. These pieces of information won’t come into play in a job search until you are hired at a legitimate company and are completing the required new-hire paperwork.
  • Do not give any personal information that could be used for identity theft or to link you to criminal activity without your knowledge. Just because a website exists under a company’s name, don’t automatically assume that everything about them is legitimate. There are hundreds of “dummy” sites created specifically to commit fraud and theft.
  • Never give your credit card number without doing your homework. The vast majority of legitimate job opportunities will not require any investment on your part.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. Before taking any action after receiving an offer or proposal via phone or email, Google to see if anyone has posted a complaint about the organization. Your secretary of state, chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau are all resources to check before you make any decisions.
  • Even job-search websites, executive recruiters and career counseling companies must be checked. For example, a Google search of “theladders.com” and “scam” quickly brings up a string of real-life stories about everything from wasting money on the membership fee to being charged for a “professional” rewrite of your resume.
  • Check out hotjobs.yahoo.com for more information about this and many more helpful topics.

The news isn’t all bad. There are legitimate companies offering real jobs. Remember to use common sense and some basic research before making a decision about your next job.

- Thanks WHN reader!