Despite the best efforts of groups like the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, scammers manage to find new ways to take money from unsuspecting consumers on a regular basis. Here's a look at one of the latest warnings that's been posted by consumer advocates. A New Mortgage Scam Afoot The latest in a long line of mortgage and foreclosure "rescue" scams seems to be one that involves attempting to trick homeowners into thinking they qualify for money from a lawsuit against their lenders. According to the BBB, the scam works like this: An official-looking letter arrives: Victims have reportedly noted that they received a letter indicating that they were eligible to join a "joinder action suit" against certain mortgage lenders and banks. The letters noted the potential for winning significant financial compensation in the suit. Unrealistic promises: Victims who called the number listed on the letter were apparently directed to employees of the scammer, who falsely suggested that, by joining the suit, victims might win thousands of dollars, have their interest rates slashed to two percent or have their mortgage principal reduced by 80 percent. Request for upfront payment: In classic scam fashion, victims were then told that they must pay a $5,000 retainer fee to ensure their spot in the lawsuit. Unsurprisingly, none of the information presented in the letters or during follow-up phone calls was true. But what many victims found disturbing was that the scammer had access to their personal information, including name, address, loan information and even loan amount. In other words, this particular scam may have seemed frighteningly legitimate. How to Spot a Scam If you're among the millions of Americans currently struggling with your mortgage, be sure to follow these safety tips (from the BBB) if and when you decide to seek mortgage assistance. Go directly to your lender first. Third-party "relief" providers, especially those that approach you unsolicited, are much less trustworthy and much more likely to take your money and offer you nothing in return. Be suspicious of mailings from strangers. If you receive a letter about any class action or mass joinder lawsuit, be sure to check online to learn about the latest scams. Then, contact your bank or connect with a lawyer to assess the nature and legitimacy of the letter. Shy away from advance fees. Thanks to new consumer protection rules that took effect this year, advance fees are only permitted in rare cases. In many cases, those that ask for money upfront are interested only in your money and may not stick around long enough to provide the help they promised. Beware of forensic loan audits. These are hot scamming ground and often have no effect on a person's mortgage payments.
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