Homeowner scams rising; experts explain how it’s happening and warning signs to protect yourself

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INDIANAPOLIS — If you’re among the many Hoosiers who recently bought a home in central Indiana, you’ve likely noticed new sets of junk mail delivered to your address.

“I tell my clients when they close, you’ll know when your mortgage has been recorded because you’re going to come home one day and there’s going to be four or five pieces of junk mail,” said Kurt Fancher of Fancher Mortgage Group (GVC Mortgage, Inc.).

Letters and postcards targeting homeowners, urging them to act on an “important matter” regarding their mortgage by calling a specific number, is among the many scams being reported. Often times, these letters include basic information about you and your mortgage, even going as far as using your company’s name, to get you to act quickly.

In some cases, Fancher says these letters also try to deceptively solicit services, asking you to send back your information in an addressed envelope.

“A lot of times they’ll be for credit life insurance,” he said. “There’s one out there that is a total scam. Somebody, for $89, says they’ll give you a certified copy of your recorded deed. Well, you get the original recorded deed back from the title company once it’s actually been recorded with the county.”

The Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana says it’s also seeing an increase in similar scams targeting homeowners.

“We’ve got information on your mortgage, or somehow there’s a problem with your home, that type of thing. Those are the kind of things that you need to watch out for because a lot of times that’s how scammers will get your attention,” said President and CEO Tim Maniscalo.

Unsolicited correspondence, claims of issues with your home or mortgage, and offers that are too good to be true are some of the “red flags” homeowners can watch out for. However, if you’re still unsure if that letter you got is truly from your company or another official entity, Fancher says the fine print will tell you.

“Some of them look like they’re coming from the government. Those are the ones that really aggravate me, and they walk a really, really fine line between being fraudulent or not,” he said.

“They’re required to have some type of disclaimer. Usually it’s in print that you have to have a magnifying glass to read it, but it will say on there somewhere that it’s a solicitation, it’s not from GVC Mortgage in my company’s case,” he added.

How are these companies, or individuals, even getting your information in the first place to send these letters? Fancher and Maniscalo say parts of the homebuying process, including some of your mortgage information, are actually public record.

“When you take out a mortgage it becomes recorded with the county, it is a matter of public record. The recording is going to show that you took out a mortgage, who with, and how much it was for. It doesn’t have any of the financial terms or anything else on it,” Fancher said. “There are companies that are out there that pull that information, and then will start sending you those solicitations.”

“When you sell or buy a home, you’re putting really a lot of information out there about yourself, and scammers use that, and once again, they use that against you. So just be very, very careful about that,” said Maniscalo.

If you feel you’re being scammed, or are unsure if the correspondence you’re getting is truly from your company, experts recommend directly contacting your mortgage professional or reporting it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

Because the homebuying process can be overwhelming, and involve a lot of moving parts, Fancher says it’s easy to fall for these scams. That’s why it’s important to be in touch with your professional, ask questions and be informed during the process.

“Personally, I try to make everybody aware of the different people that are on my team they may be hearing from at different points of the process, and if you’re hearing from somebody you’re not sure about, first thing to do is call me and ask and make sure it’s legit,” he said.

“Do your due diligence and if you’re not sure… check,” he added.

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