Follow These Tips to Avoid Being the Victim of a Housing Scam
Always Thoroughly Read Everything Before You Sign It
Sometimes, housing scams are surprisingly straightforward. Though rare, some homeowners end up being the victim of a deed scam. This scam involves a homeowner accidentally signing a deed that transfers ownership of the home to someone else. If you do this, you are essentially giving someone else legal proof that they own the home. Many deed scams consist of the scammer asking you to sign some other document, like a property easement, and sneaking a deed transfer into the document. This sort of scam is technically a form of fraud and usually doesn't hold up in court, but it can take a long, expensive legal battle to prove you own the property.
To avoid it, you need to avoid signing your name to any document you haven't thoroughly read and understood. Of course, it can take time to sort out the complicated legal language in a random document. However, if the other party is above board, they won't object to you taking your time before signing. Any time someone pushes you to sign a housing-related document without reading it or getting it checked by a lawyer, it's a warning sign that they might be up to no good.
Never Pay a Fee Before Modifying Your Mortgage
Another common scam to look out for is a mortgage refinancing scam. These scams offer a mortgage with an impressively low interest rate or promise to help you restructure your loan to avoid foreclosure. However, when you go to refinance, you'll be told that you need to pay a fee to have your application processed. This is not a standard practice in the home financing industry. Instead of giving you the low mortgage rate, the scammer will simply pocket your fee and disappear.
Luckily, this scam is very simple to avoid. Any time you are applying for a housing loan, don't go with a company that asks you to pay them before they'll provide the service. Any reputable company will either skip fees or have you pay fees after finalizing the refinance. Be especially wary if the company asking you to pay a fee is promising to help you avoid foreclosure. Many scams take advantage of homeowners in foreclosure because they know these people are more desperate for assistance.
Research Companies Before Working With Them
A lot of scammers take advantage of people by creating fake identities. They'll present themselves as a reliable business, but the whole business will actually be a false front for a scam. If you work with the fake business, you can end up giving a scammer your social security account, bank number, or other personal details. Before you provide any personal information, take the time to look up the company and see whether they're legitimate. Check for online reviews, official documentation, and business licenses.
Don't forget that some scammers may pretend to be affiliated with a reputable company when they are not. For example, they might say they're with Rocket Mortgage when they're really just a random person. Never trust someone's identity just because they sound official or use a company's logo on their email. You always need to check with the company's official site to see whether the person who contacted you works with the company. Check their official customer service number or email to see whether the person you're talking to has the right contact information. If in doubt, you can even call customer service and ask about the person by name.
By following these tips, you can greatly reduce the risk of getting scammed. Though doing research and double-checking the credentials of everyone you speak to can be time-consuming, it's often worthwhile. A little extra effort helps ensure that your hard-earned money or housing isn't stolen.