Warning about homeowner scams

By Gray Hall - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Once again, criminals are targeting homeowners. This time they're mailing out two new letters hoping you take the bait. One is a deed retrieval service; the other is a mortgage audit notice.

Paula Sherman with Housing Opportunities Made Equal or H.O.M.E fights housing discrimination -- but she also tackles scams. She's warning about two new deceptions that may hit your mailbox. The first claims you may be entitled to a refund because of mistakes made on your mortgage loan.

"There is always a small element of truth to this scams but then again then again, they are scams and the primary goal is to extract more money from an unsuspecting homeowner," said Sherman.

The letter attracts the reader with claims of helping homeowners get up to $10,000 in refunds. To find out if you qualify you're asked to call a number. Sherman says if you the dial it, you could be making a big mistake.

"If they can lure you into thinking that it is legitimate service, hey you are eligible for refund, they almost guarantee that you are going to get refunds, it may cause you to go a little bit further down the road than you intended to," she said.

Sherman called the number in the mailer. The caller wanted $99 to conduct what he called a mortgage audit. He admitted if nothing was wrong the homeowner would be reimbursed, but told us, they almost always find something wrong. Sherman says a homeowner is almost never entitled to refund for a loan. If they are she says they can get help for free.

"If the homeowner thinks that they are eligible for a refund of any reason they should contact their mortgage company," said Sherman.

Like the first letter, the second wanted money. This time $87 for a so called deed retrieval service, sent by the state record retrieval board, Sherman says there is no such organization. Like most of these deceptions, the letter appears legitimate. It even has the homeowners personal information, but Sherman says don't be fooled.

"A homeowner may think, well if they know this much about me...it has to be legitimate...but is public knowledge," she stated.

If you really want a copy of your deed, most places will only charge you 50 cents per page...so all you really need is a handful of change and take a trip down to your county clerk's office.

"On the face of the scam it sounds legitimate. 'Hey I don't have a copy of my deed I want obtain one...I will send in the 87 dollars to secure it," Sherman said.

Sherman says it would be $87 wasted. She warns not all mail is good mail. Be suspicious of offers that want you to send money, do research and ask lots of questions. Sherman adds, if you have any concerns about your mortgage, always start with your lender first, not a third party.

You can also try a HUD approved organizations like H.O.M.E. Many of them offer free services and advice.

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