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FTC: Beware of Scammers Eyeing Mortgage Assistance

Successful scammers prey on vulnerabilities, and, like vultures to carrion, they consider the growing number of worried homeowners an easy target.

WASHINGTON – Thank to COVID-19 fears, Americans have lost about $106 million to fraud so far this year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It issued a consumer alert, warning Americans to be cautious about any solicitation asking them to pay for access to certain financial assistance, such as stimulus checks, job opportunities and mortgage aid.

The FTC says some scammers dupe homeowners by making them believe they must pay up front for mortgage help. “It’s illegal for companies to charge you before they help you with your mortgage – but that doesn’t stop scammers from trying,” the FTC warns.

Homeowners behind on mortgage payments should speak with their mortgage servicer first and discuss their options. Those struggling to make their mortgage or rent – people who may face a foreclosure or eviction – may want to consult with a legal services organization.

Stimulus checks have been another growing area of fraud, the FTC warns. Congress is debating more stimulus checks, which could open the door to more fraud. If there is another stimulus payment, just like last time, you won’t have to pay to get it, the FTC says.

“Nobody will call to ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number” to access your payment, the FTC reports.

Real estate professionals should also continue to remain vigilant against wire fraud scams in real estate transactions and warn their clients, particularly as more areas of a transaction are conducted remotely. Down payment scams and other ones that target different points of a real estate transaction can put clients at risk.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) offers more fraud-prevention information online.

Source: Federal Trade Commission and “Americans, Who Have Lost $100 Million to Fraud Related to COVID-19, Continue to Be a Target,” CNBC (Aug. 11, 2020)

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