a person holding a tax form
Photo by Leeloo Thefirst on Pexels.com

The Office of Attorney General of the District of Columbia on Tuesday issued a consumer alert warning city residents about common scams targeting homeowners that could utilize information about a mortgage or photos of property.

Scammers looking to steal money and personal information will offer lies to victims about their mortgage, taxes or home warranty and may use information that is related to a homeowner’s dwelling, such as the name of the mortgage servicer, account information, or even photos.

If a homeowner receives a letter, phone call or a visit from an in-person “salesperson,” that person should pause before giving up information. Scams can take the form of pressure to sign over interest in your home, expensive charges for services before they are provided, and a push to sign up for unnecessary services like a home warranty.

Common homeownership scams include lease-back or a repurchase scheme; a refinance scam consists of a scammer posing as a mortgage broker or lender and offering a victim refinance documents which are actually papers to get control of a house’s deed; a home warranty scam is when a scammer sends a letter to a homeowner asking them to call a telephone number to address “time-sensitive” concerns and push them for payment to solve the situation, but it is a fraud.

Other common scams are phantom help where a scammer claims to be a housing counselor or lawyer who can help a homeowner avoid foreclosure in exchange for a large fee that turns out to be fraudulent; a property tax lien in which a scammer mails a letter threatening a homeowner with a tax bill from a fake government agency or may threaten IRS action but is designed to get money illegally; and phone and internet scam where the scammer pressures a homeowner to apply for a loan over the phone or the web extracting personal or banking information to, in reality, steal an identity.

The attorney general’s office advises residents to be wary of someone who makes an unsolicited offer to save their home; use designs, logos, or names that sound like a government agency but are really not; pressure a homeowner to act immediately divulging personal information; recommends ending your contact with lender or counselor; tells a homeowner to send payments to someone else other than their mortgage servicer; advises homeowner to stop making payments; instructs the homeowner to transfer ownership of the property to them; demand a large payment in advance of any services; accepts payment only by cashier’s check, wire transfer, mobile payment like Zelle, or asks for payments in gift cards; makes promises over the phone and in person but not in writing; and asks homeowner to sign a document that has blank lines or spaces.

The office advises residents to call their mortgage servicer, talk to a trusted friend or family member, post the scam on neighborhood listservs, research the people and company that made contact and do not conduct business if not licensed, and never sign any document that they don’t understand.

Wary residents are encouraged to contact an attorney or call the free DC Bar Legal Information Help Line at 202-626-3499 for questions. Residents can also contact the free D.C. Office of the Attorney General Hotline at 202-442-9828 or submit a consumer protection complaint.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *