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Scam Alert

'We'll Save Your House'

Older Americans are prime targets in red-hot foreclosure scams

4. Rent to buy. Scammers say that if you surrender your home's title to them, you can remain under your roof as a renter and buy the home back later.

Forget claims that this prevents foreclosure and can improve your credit rating — here's the real deal: The bad guys raise the rent to evict you, make the buy-back terms so stiff that you can't reclaim your home; or just let the foreclosure proceed.

5. The sell shell. Fraudsters offer to find a buyer for your home, but only if you sign over the deed and move out. Once the deed is transferred, they rent the home to someone else and pocket the proceeds while your lender goes ahead with the foreclosure.

You lose your home, and you're still responsible for the unpaid mortgage because transferring the deed does nothing to transfer what you owe on the mortgage.

6. The "sign here" shuffle. The granddaddy of foreclosure rescue gotchas is a simple bait and switch, with your signature as the scammer's goal. Under the guise of some promise — an "assistance loan" of $10,000, for instance — you're asked to sign a stack of paperwork. Buried deep within, amid a rushed "sign here, initial there" routine, is a document that sells your home for $10,000. You get a check that you think is a loan, but in fact it's the fire-sale price of your house.

Other scammers hide a title transfer document in the stack, giving them your house for free. If you get wise midway and don't sign, they may forge your signature.

The bottom line: Avoid self-proclaimed rescuers. Get legitimate help and information about weathering a foreclosure from trustworthy sources like these:

  • The mortgage industry's website HopeNow.

Also of interest: An escape route from foreclosure. >>

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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