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Mortgage Scams: Know Them, Avoid Them, Report Them

Homeowners in New Jersey will now have access to a program that will make it easier to report mortgage fraud and predatory lending schemes. Called "Know It, Avoid It, Report It," the program is run by the federal agency of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, and is designed to help homeowners spot scams and the tactics that scammers use, avoid the scams, and report the scams to the authorities.

This new program in New Jersey comes on the heels of the announced national mortgage settlement - a $25 billion settlement between the nation's five largest loan servicers, 49 states and the federal government. The settlement resolves a dispute regarding state and federal findings that the lenders - including Bank of America, Chase, Citi, Ally/GMAC and Wells Fargo - had regularly signed foreclosure documents without a notary and without verifying facts contained in the documents, otherwise known as "robo-signing."

It is hoped that the money from this settlement will provide some assistance for distressed homeowners. For example, homeowners in bankruptcy may be eligible for relief - relief in the form of loan modification, waiver of deficiency, forgiveness or forbearance of principal, among others. However, if you have questions about whether you qualify for any relief under this national mortgage settlement, and experienced attorney will be able to provide advice and guidance.

Signs of New Jersey Mortgage Scams

Every homeowner is a potential victim of a scammer. So, it is important that a homeowner is vigilant of the "signs" of a scam. According to HUD, common tell-tale signs of a predatory lending or mortgage fraud scam include:

  • Were you asked to sign a contract?
  • Were you asked to pay an upfront fee?
  • Were you asked to sign over the title or deed to your property?
  • Were you asked to pay your mortgage payment to someone other than your original lender?
  • Were you told you could stop making mortgage payments?

If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may have been the victim or potential victim of a scam. However, even if you are not a victim of predatory lending or other mortgage scam, you may be struggling to make your monthly mortgage payments. You do have other options, including filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or mediation.

Every person's situation unique and not every option for relief may work for you. Therefore, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you explore the options that work best for your situation.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "New program to make it easier for N.J. residents to report scams aimed at homeowners," Victoria St. Martin, April 18, 2012

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