Foreclosure scams targeting distressed homeowners have shot up 60 percent in the past year, according to a report issued this month by a nonprofit homeowner protection group. Notaries should be cautious of any unusual job offers from “loan modification” businesses, as those odd tasks could be a sign the company is engaging in fraudulent practices.
The fraudsters have taken advantage of newly launched federal programs, such as HARP and HAMP, to trick distressed homeowners into seeking their assistance, according to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF). Dishonest service providers often claim to be affiliated with these legitimate programs, but charge consumers for ineffective assistance or information that can be obtained from other sources for free, warned Colleen Hernandez, CEO of the HPF.
Some fraudulent companies have attempted to hire Notaries under false pretenses to lend their scams an appearance of legitimacy. The warning signs include requests for Notaries to collect a large advanced payment from a customer for “loan modification” or “foreclosure help” services — this is against the law in many states. Another is if the business asks you to make sure that signers do not keep copies of any “loan assistance” documents once they are notarized. The FTC has posted other warning signs to help spot shady foreclosure assistance firms. If you are approached by a “loan modification” or “foreclosure” firm that asks you to do something suspicious or unusual, do not accept any job offers from them. Instead, contact local law enforcement or your state Attorney General’s office for assistance.