By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Buying a home is the most important purchase many of us will ever make. But unexpected troubles like a lay off, illness or death in the family can make it hard to keep up with mortgage payments, and homeowners may find themselves facing foreclosure. Sometimes, loan rates are set up to adjust to higher and higher rates, catching unsuspecting consumers off guard. It’s tragic when families lose their homes, especially when it could be prevented.
hurt families, communities, and our entire economy. It’s in all of our interest to help homeowners find a way out of foreclosure when possible.
Help for North Carolinians who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure is now just a telephone call away. North Carolinians can call the HOPE Hotline toll-free at 888-995-HOPE 24 hours a day, seven days a week for free counseling on options to avoid foreclosure.
The hotline will soon be able to connect you with non-profit housing and credit counselors in your local community who can advise you about options such as modifying your loan, selling or refinancing your home, or setting up a repayment plan with your lender.
My office and the Office of the NC Commissioner of Banks have teamed up to connect local counselors across our state with the national HOPE hotline, a joint project between NeighborWorks America, a non-profit organization chartered by Congress, and the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Minnesota. More information is available at www.ncforeclosurehelp.org.
We’re fortunate North Carolina has not experienced the wave of foreclosures seen in some other states thanks to our strong laws against unfair loans, but foreclosures are on the rise here. Unfortunately, there are some people out there who try to take an unfair advantage of struggling homeowners.
So-called foreclosure assistance or rescue companies kick consumers who are already down. Just this month my office got a court order stopping another one of these outfits, Fresh Start, from doing business in North Carolina. Fresh Start took money from consumers but failed to help stop foreclosures as promised.
If you face foreclosure, keep the following tips in mind to avoid scams and frauds:
- Beware of so-called foreclosure assistance or rescue companies that require payment up front before they “help” you. It’s illegal to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure assistance services in North Carolina.
- Steer clear of foreclosure assistance or rescue companies that want you to make your mortgage payment to them, or who tell you not to talk to your mortgage company or an attorney.
- Watch out for so-called real estate investors, who promise to pay off your mortgage if you sign over the deed to your property, but not the mortgage. The investor then rents your home back to you or to a tenant but doesn’t make mortgage payments and the bank forecloses. Remember, just signing over your deed doesn’t get you out of the responsibility for paying your mortgage.
- Other scam tip offs: the schemer refuses to put his or her promises in writing, pressures you to sign paperwork you haven’t had a chance to read thoroughly, or offers to fill out the paperwork for you.
- Report foreclosure scams to my office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
- For free help dealing with foreclosure, call the HOPE hotline at 888-995-HOPE.
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff are working to educate consumers and protect them from scams. We are here to be of service when you need us but through consumer education efforts like these columns we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.