Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't Pay for Foreclosure Help - Avoiding Rescue Scams

With foreclosure filings reportedly reaching record numbers this summer, Family Services, Inc. reminds homeowners in danger of foreclosure that they should never pay for help, and should instead seek assistance from HUD-approved nonprofit housing counseling agencies, like Family Services, Inc., and those found at www.findaforeclosurecounselor.org and www.makinghomeaffordable.gov.

“Rescue scams are proliferating at a rapid pace and more homeowners are falling prey to the slick advertising and sales pitches that guarantee to keep them in their homes,” said Debbie Kidd, Director of The Homeownership Resource Center, a division of Family Services, Inc., a local NeighborWorks organization.

Foreclosure rescue scam artists frequently demand upfront payment for their services and “guarantee” to modify, refinance, or reinstate a borrower’s mortgage. The payment demanded can be anywhere from $1,000-$5,000, as was the case for one homeowner in South Carolina. The Homeownership Resource Center, located in Charleston, South Carolina recently worked with a homeowner who was bilked out of more than $2,000 by a company that promised to work with the borrower’s lender to reinstate the homeowner’s mortgage. In reality, the company did nothing and the home was sold at auction. Even worse, the homeowner had no idea until a notice to vacate the premises came from an attorney. Now, the person is left with no home and lost more than $2,000 in the process.

“If you are facing foreclosure, do not pay any person or company up front for services,” said Kidd. “Homeowners facing foreclosure need to be aware that foreclosure rescue scam artists are out in full force and see this as a prime opportunity to make money. When it comes to foreclosure assistance, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ does not apply. If you are facing foreclosure, contact a HUD-approved nonprofit housing counseling agency, like Family Services, Inc., to receive foreclosure counseling. Nonprofit organizations are a homeowner’s best defense against foreclosure.”

Family Services, Inc. urges homeowners not to pay a person or company for foreclosure help, and offers borrowers the following tips to avoid foreclosure rescue scams:

• Never use any ad, person, or company that approaches you and claims to be able to “stop foreclosure now” for a fee.

• Never release your financial information online or over the phone to a company you know nothing about.

• Never send your mortgage payment, or any payment, to a company other than your mortgage lender.

• Visit www.findaforeclosurecounselor.org to find HUD-approved organizations that offer free, legitimate foreclosure counseling.

• If you prefer to speak to a counselor over the phone, call the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673) for free foreclosure prevention counseling by expert counselors at HUD-approved nonprofit counseling agencies. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in English and in Spanish. Counseling is also available in 20 additional languages by request.

• Contact your mortgage lender. Contrary to what a foreclosure scammer will tell you, you should contact your lender the minute you have trouble making your monthly payment.

• If you suspect a scammer has approached you or victimized you, contact your local Better Business Bureau or state attorney general’s office. In addition to reporting a scam locally, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or call 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).

For more information about foreclosure prevention, or to make an appointment to meet with a counselor, please contact Debbie Kidd, dkidd@fsisc.org, 843-735-7860.

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Time Homebuyers Could Qualify For $3,500 On Top Of $8,000 Federal Tax Credit

Qualified tri-county first time homebuyers could receive $3500 from the Homeownership Resource Center, a division of Family Services, Inc. In addition to the $8,000 Federal Tax Credit already available, that could mean up to $11,500 to first time homebuyers. The additional $3,500 will be given to one qualified person or family at each of the six upcoming First Time Homebuyers Workshops hosted by The Homeownership Resource Center. The Homeownership Resource Center is a non-profit, HUD-approved counseling agency.

The recipient of the $3,500 must attend the free First Time Homebuyers Workshop and close on their first home by November 30th, 2009. November 30th is also the date the current Federal Tax Credit will expire. Other restrictions also apply.

Traditionally, the Homeownership Resource Center loans money to qualified first time homebuyers for the initial cost of closing and their down payment. However, due to new federal banking regulations and an accumulation of funds for public distribution, The Homeownership Resource Center will be giving away this money to six qualified first time homebuyers, regardless of income. One first time homebuyer from each of the six upcoming workshops will be selected.

Available Workshops:
Saturday, September 12th from 10am-4pm
Saturday, September 19th from 10am-4pm
Saturday, September 26th from 10am-4pm
Saturday, October 3rd from 10am-4pm
Saturday, October 10th from 10am-4pm
Saturday, October 17th from 10am-4pm

Location: Trident One Stop, 1930 Hanahan Road, North Charleston, SC

The Homeownership Resource Center’s First Time Homebuyers Workshop was created to educate homebuyers about the homebuying process and what to expect when purchasing a new home. Through the workshop, HUD-certified counselors, with more than 20 years of extensive training and experience, work closely with the homebuyer through every step in an effort to simplify and reduce the stress of the buying process. As a result, the Homeownership Resource Center has helped hundreds of individuals and families achieve their dreams of homeownership.

Some of the many topics that will be discussed at The First Time Homebuyers Workshops include: Mortgage programs, buying HUD properties and foreclosures, home inspections, homeownership insurance, getting the most out of your real estate agents, legal fees, and current market conditions.

Please call 843-735-7862 for more information or visit www.fsisc.org.