The Oregon Department of Justice has made it a priority to protect Oregon homeowners by aggressively pursuing companies and individuals who engage in loan modification and foreclosure rescue fraud, and other mortgage-related scams. These scams can include:
- Phony offers of counseling or help
- Cons where homeowners unknowingly sign away their home
- Lease-to-own schemes where a scammer purports to sell a house but pockets all the payments.
The Oregon Department of Justice investigates and prosecutes the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act and other mortgage and foreclosure rescue fraud offenses. Violations may incur civil and criminal penalties, including prison.
Avoiding a Mortgage or Foreclosure Scam. Be alert. Beware of any counselor or company who:
- Guarantees to stop the foreclosure process no matter what
- Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit or housing counselor
- Encourages you to rent your own home so you can buy it back over time
- Tells you to make your mortgage payments directly to it, rather than your lender
- Tells you to transfer your property deed or title to it
- Offers to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is not set by the housing market at the time of sale
- Offers to fill out paperwork for you
Get it in writing. Your home is an extremely important asset, and it's ok to ask anyone you are working with to put a description of all services and promises in writing. Make sure you fully understand documents before you sign them, or you could inadvertently sign away your home to someone else. Keep all of your records.
Don't pay upfront. If a counselor demands that you make a payment before receiving services, or will only accept payment via cash, automatic withdrawal, cashier's check or wire transfer, be extremely suspicious. Make sure you know exactly what services you will receive before paying anything. Also, you do not have to pay thousands - or even hundreds - of dollars for mortgage counseling as HUD-approved counselors provide their services at little or no charge to you.
Make sure your counselor is HUD-approved. Scammers may contact you by mail, on the phone, online or in person, and sometimes try to appear associated with your lender or the government. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has an easily searched list of approved counseling agencies. Ask your counselor if their agency is HUD-approved, and then double check for yourself. Visit the HUD website or call 877-483-1515 to find out if your counselor is HUD-approved.
Are you being offered a short sale? A "short sale" is a term to describe a transaction where the sale price of the property will not be sufficient to generate proceeds to pay off the existing mortgage or mortgages, and where the lender(s) agrees to accept less than full payoff. It is a type of loan modification. Learn more about short sales .
Know your rights. Oregon law requires your lender to inform you about mortgage modification options, and allow you to request good-faith negotiations which may help you avoid foreclosure.
Get help. If you think you have been victimized in a scam, or want to notify us about an individual, company or agency that may be engaging in mortgage or foreclosure rescue scams, complete a Consumer Complaint Form or call 1-877-877-9392.
If you are worried about losing your home the following organizations may be able to help you:
- HOPE NOW is a joint effort by counselors, mortgage companies, and others designed to help homeowners in distress stay in their homes. The HOPE NOW website can help you locate free counseling help or assist you in contacting your mortgage company. Visit the HOPE NOW website or call 888-995-HOPE. The telephone hotline is staffed by HUD-approved credit counselors who can guide you through possible options.
- Making Home Affordable is part of a federal plan to help homeowners keep their home, through refinancing of mortgages and avoidance of foreclosures. Visit the Making Home Affordable website for details.
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