Have You been the Victim of Predatory Lending?

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Predatory lending is precisely what it sounds like. While there are many lenders in the US who have all of their scruples, it’s important to know that unscrupulous lenders do exist. If you think you were granted a loan you didn’t truly qualify for, or a loan you can’t possibly make the payments on, you may be a victim of predatory lending.

In general, predatory lenders target groups of people based on their lack of understanding about loans and/or their inability to actually repay the loan. Some groups that are targeted include: the poor, the less educated, the elderly, and those who are in need of immediate cash.

Loans given to those who fall into the above groups benefit the lender and can seriously damage the borrower’s credit score and overall finances. Because of this, it is important that you have a clear understanding of any loan you are signing for. If you don’t understand some or all of the loan language, DO NOT SIGN.

As a potential borrower, you have the power to tell a lender that you’d like to wait to make an informed decision before signing. You should then walk out and go directly to an experienced NJ attorney who regularly works with lenders. This may be a debt negotiation attorney, or one that specializes in real estate transactions.

Your New Jersey real estate attorney will have the experience needed to advise you on the loan you are considering. He will also be able to tell you if you are being taken advantage of by a dishonest lender.

Specifically, mortgage lenders have been found to practice predatory lending in recent years. Unscrupulous lenders may target potential borrowers who currently have substantial equity in their home. This is because mortgage lenders will benefit from a loan backed by a borrower’s real property and even a foreclosure. Naturally, not all mortgage lenders are bad! In fact, most lenders are on the up and up.

However, if you get a bad feeling while you are discussing your loan options with a lender, it’s in your best interest to leave their office before signing anything, and take copies with you. When you meet with your NJ real estate attorney, he will be able to read through the proposed loan contract in order to inform you of your best next move.

Don’t risk getting yourself in over your head on a loan that you ultimately will default on. Know all of the facts about the loan by working with a professional who can guide you toward honest and helpful lenders in New Jersey.

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USPS Mail Identity Theft: What You Need to Know

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As our world becomes more and more saturated with technology, it’s now possible to do almost anything online. You can check your bank account balance, transfer money and pay your bills. Heck, you can even run a business online these days.

Even as we move deeper and deeper into the Information Age, there are still a number of people (and companies) who send and receive important information the “old fashioned way” – via the US Postal Service. Most of us still check the mailbox regularly, and it’s fair to say that the majority of Americans receive at least several pieces of “snail mail” every day.

What, then, should you make of your mailbox being empty for several days in a row? While not receiving any mail isn’t really that unusual once in awhile – if the trend continues beyond a single consecutive day, you should look into the reason.

As it turns out, there is a new identity theft scam making its way around the country that combines the use of both technology and old fashioned “snail mail” to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. The first clue that you may have been a victim is simply an empty mailbox.

While you may celebrate when there’s no mail (after all, no mail means no bills, right?) – the real reason may be quite sinister, and one that requires immediate attention. Ignoring your lack of mail may lead to a ruined credit report and a plunging credit score.

Here’s how this particular identity theft scheme works:

  • The identity thief typically applies for a credit card in your name, using your personal information, including your mailing address.
  • The thief then uses the USPS website to place a hold on your mail. The thief pretends to be you, but no authorization is ever required.
  • You stop receiving mail, as your identity thief plans to act as you and retrieve your mail from the post office when the credit card arrives. Again, no identification is required for them to pick up your mail from the USPS.
  • If the thief is successful, they will have a credit card in your name. The mail hold will be removed so that you will begin receiving mail at home again, and (they hope) you will be none the wiser.

This identity theft scheme has been just recently brought to light, and the lack of security surrounding the USPS electronic hold system is being investigated, according to representatives from the postal service.

In this technology-driven world, we all have to prove our identity online multiple times a day – even signing into Twitter can be difficult if you use a different computer or device. Accessing our most valuable personal information, (bank accounts, PayPal accounts and credit card statements) requires that we prove our identity through the use of complex passwords and security questions. Hopefully, the US Postal Service will soon have similar security measures in place in order to prevent just anyone from picking up “their” new credit card, all the while pretending to be you.

Until then, we want you to be aware of this problem so that your identity is not used by someone else. If this has happened to you (or you suspect that it has), acting quickly is of the utmost importance. Report the fraudulent activity, file a police report, and get in touch with a New Jersey credit repair attorney immediately.

Image credit: Matt

Have You Been a Foreclosure Scam Victim?

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We’ve talked about foreclosure defense scams before – these happen to homeowners who realize they’re facing foreclosure but don’t think they can afford a foreclosure attorney to help them save their home. Desperate, they look for the cheapest option available to them, which usually comes in the form of a company that claims to be able to save any home from foreclosure for much less than the cost of hiring a lawyer.

Foreclosure defense scam artists lead homeowners to believe that they are working hard at saving their home from Sheriff’s Sale, requesting additional fees time and time again, drawing out the “process” as long as possible in order to suck as much money out of you as they can. Usually, little to no process is being made to keep your home out of foreclosure, and by the time you finally discover the truth, the fraudulent “company” will have vanished and moved on to another city with new homeowners to take advantage of.

Coming at this from a different angle, some homeowners are victims of foreclosure scammers with a twist. Instead of falsely claiming to help struggling homeowners to stay out of foreclosure, these fraud artists target those homeowners who are nearly or already in foreclosure.

Falsely claiming to have purchased the home at Sheriff’s Sale, this type of foreclosure scam has several red flags that should go up loud and clear. Firstly, if someone really did buy your house, you would have been notified that your home’s foreclosure sale was coming up.

Because New Jersey’s foreclosure process is judicial, every step of the process must be completed via the court system. As the homeowner, you will be served with official forms alerting you to your lender’s intent to foreclose, the actual foreclosure complaint and a final offer allowing you a chance to bring your defaulted mortgage current. Even if you do not respond to a single court document that you receive and foreclosure goes through, you will still be notified regarding the date of the sale of your home (BEFORE it takes place).

Therefore, if someone calls you on the phone or physically shows up at your door claiming to be the rightful owner via Sheriff’s Sale, be on high alert. Unless you have been out of the country or for any reason have not been retrieving your mail, there is absolutely no way someone could have purchased your home without your knowledge. Again: they couldn’t purchase your home because no sale will be held without you receiving notification.

If one thing’s certain, it’s that scammers are often quite persistent in their quest to deceive and make money. Some con artists will reappear multiple times, insisting that the home is now in their possession. They may present you with a set of demands, such as:

  • You can continue to live in the home as long as you pay them rent money.
  • The property taxes and HOA dues (if any) must be paid by you.
  • You must find a new place to live (AKA eviction) if you don’t meet their demands.

As you can see, this type of scheme allows the scammer(s) to get rich by scaring homeowners into paying them rent. There have been reports of homeowners who unfortunately fell for this type of conspiracy because the scammer produced official-looking documents. A little checking would have shown that none of the documents were signed by a judge, making them invalid in the judicial foreclosure State of New Jersey.

If you feel that you may potentially be the victim of a New Jersey foreclosure scam, you must take action immediately. Do not sign any papers presented to you without a NJ foreclosure attorney at your side. If possible, obtain copies of the “documents” that you were shown and bring them all with you to your first consultation with your New Jersey real estate lawyer, who may be able to help you recover any monies you’ve lost and will definitely be able to legitimately assist you in saving your home.

 

Image credit: Widjaya Ivan

Mortgage Fraud Red Flags

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Even though 2016 has seen a general slowing of the number of new foreclosures nationally, New Jersey still leads the country with the highest number of properties currently in the foreclosure process, according to figures gathered throughout the beginning half of the year.

Some good news is that the excessive holding pattern, which was created in New Jersey courts during the national mortgage crisis that began around 2007, has been alleviated, expediting the NJ foreclosure process in general. In fact, as of the date of this post, only several hundred homes are “stuck” somewhere in New Jersey’s judicial foreclosure channels. The rest of the 15,000+ NJ foreclosure properties are moving swiftly along and are predicted to take much less than the nearly one year average to make it to Sheriff’s Sale.

The overall housing market in the garden state is in a better place now than it has been since the housing crisis began nearly a decade ago, but there is still significant room for improvement. With that being said, some New Jersey residents are excited by the positive feedback about the housing market, and are once again looking to either list their home for sale or make an offer on a property.

Naturally, this is exciting news for those who make their living in the real estate and/or lending market. Times have been extremely tough for real estate agents and mortgage brokerage firms during the housing crisis.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Even with the slow improvement in the housing market, home sales simply haven’t returned to their pre-crisis levels yet. Many New Jerseyans who work in the housing industry have had to turn to second jobs in order to support their families; some people abandoned the real estate industry entirely and took up new employment.

A third group, made up mostly of lending companies, remained steadfast in their conviction to wait out the housing bubble. But how did they continue to make money all these years without qualified buyers and with very few homes on the market?

Unfortunately, they did so by using unscrupulous tactics. Because more people turned to renting instead of buying over the past decade, lenders that wanted to stay in business had to actively seek out potential mortgagees. In doing so, they often targeted people who were under-qualified for a mortgage.

A mortgage “scam” is one in which the lender goes to extraordinary lengths to push borrowers through to approval – even when the potential borrowers won’t actually be able to afford the mortgage payments. Naturally, this only perpetuates the foreclosure problem in this country.

Under normal circumstances, a lending company goes to great lengths to ensure that each and every borrower has the capacity to repay a loan before they get approved. Avoiding potential foreclosures is typically at the top of every lender’s priority list.

However, when push came to shove, some New Jersey mortgage company owners acted fraudulently in order to sustain their businesses and to maintain their lifestyles. As the housing market still struggles to return to pre-crisis levels, it’s important that borrowers do their homework on the reputation of any lender who offers them a mortgage. Red flags for mortgage fraud include:

  • It seems too good to be true. This is a good statement to live by in general, but especially when it comes to someone offering to lend you a ton of money. If you keep waiting for ‘the catch,’ and none materializes, you can be sure that the catch is hidden and will make itself known when you least expect it.
  • They’re offering you more than you can afford. Your debt-to-income ratio should not be more than 28%. What that means is that your mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your total monthly income (pre-tax). If you’re being offered a mortgage that doesn’t fall within the 28% range, don’t sign.
  • Your loan documents contain incorrect information. If a lender is asking you to put your John Hancock on a mortgage agreement that has ANY false information, walk away. Not only is falsifying mortgage documents a bad idea for your future financial wellness; it’s also illegal.

Bottom line: keep your eyes wide open and do plenty of research before taking on a mortgage as the nation is still in its recovery phase from the housing crisis. It’s always wise to have an attorney who is well-versed in real estate contracts look over your mortgage paperwork before you close on a property. For your peace of mind and your financial stability, bring your attorney along to the closing, too.

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How to Avoid a Foreclosure Defense Scam

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All too often, homeowners who are in danger of losing their home to foreclosure are under the impression that they can’t afford to pay for the assistance of an experienced foreclosure attorney.

This leads people to seek out alternatives to saving their home. You may have seen advertisements for services that make ‘too good to be true’ claims; they can often be found in local newspapers, on bulletin boards or on random signs near your home (often on telephone poles or staked into the ground.)

These “services” are very often scam artists disguised as a foreclosure defense or loan modification company. Typically, they’ll entice you by claiming to charge only a one-time flat fee amount that is less expensive than retaining a foreclosure defense attorney.

For that one-time flat fee, the scammer company will make lofty promises in relation to your specific money problems. If you’re about to lose your home to foreclosure, promises will be made to “save your home,” “stop the foreclosure,” “negotiate a loan modification,” etc.

While all of these false promises are being tossed around, the fraudulent foreclosure defense company may begin asking for more money in order to continue negotiations that have taken “longer than expected” or to initiate an automatic stay. Because of the addition of more and more fees, you will almost always end up paying a scammer a lot more money than a certified foreclosure defense lawyer!

Will a fraudulent foreclosure defense company actually help me save my home?

So, you’re thinking, “Ok; I may have gotten taken for more money than the deal I thought I was getting, but at least my house will not be sold at Sheriff’s Sale.” You may be kicking yourself for spending more than you had to, but as long as your foreclosure is stopped, you’ll probably feel somewhat relieved.

The problem with that line of thinking is that these foreclosure defense scammers don’t actually plan on doing any work on your case at all. Their solitary goal is to take your money. In some cases, they may use some of your money to pay a third party to negotiate a loan modification for you (which will do nothing in terms of stopping a foreclosure), while they keep the rest of your money as profit.

Throughout the vast majority of this process, the scammers will lead you to believe that they are constantly working on your case – filing paperwork and negotiating with your lender as your foreclosure defense team. In reality, almost nothing is actually being done to further your case along at all.

Some foreclosure defense scam artists may even make bold claims that suggest they are working with or for the government or your mortgage company in order to increase your comfort level. Multiple promises will be made to you about what they can deliver in terms of saving your home. If your home is already in foreclosure, it’s important to know that a loan modification will not stop or even delay the foreclosure process in the slightest.

If you are facing foreclosure and wish to save your home, you need a New Jersey foreclosure defense attorney working for you. Although an attorney’s fees may seem higher up front, the alternative is to pay smaller amounts out over a long stretch of time to a scam artist. In the end, your certified and experienced attorney may even come out costing LESS, and you will have gotten the results you wanted.

Veitengruber Law has saved many homes for New Jersey residents who are struggling, and we will continue to save more homes for those who need help. Paying our fees is beyond worth it, because we do not stop working until your home is saved, and we don’t make any promises we can’t keep.

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How to Recognize a Credit Repair Scam

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As you attempt to start consolidating and potentially negotiating some of your outstanding debt, you will probably find yourself wondering if you should go it alone or ask for professional help.

The ease of accessibility to credit cards has made getting in over your head in debt all too easy. The problem arises when you finally realize just how high your balance(s) and minimum payments have gotten. Once your minimum monthly payments become too much for you to afford, you’ve got a problem that needs attention ASAP.

There are several really effective methods you can use in order to strategically pay your debt down until it’s paid off entirely. However, if your debt has reached alarming heights, you will probably find more success if you work with a professional in the debt relief arena.

Credit repair companies are everywhere these days. Since you’re currently dealing with high levels of outstanding debt, you probably receive ads from many of these companies on the regular. Many such companies claim they’ll help you pay off your debt in record time, raise your credit score by leaps and bounds and erase bad marks from your credit report. Some companies even go so far as to promise you a completely new credit history.

Outlandish promises are red flags that should warn you to avoid sharing your personal information. If it sounds too good to be true, rest assured that it is too good to be true. Some other signs of fraudulent credit repair activity include:

  • An offer of a new Social Security Number – A fraudulent credit repair company may attempt to assign you a number to use instead of your Social Security Number, to prevent lenders from seeing your bad credit history. Also called a Credit Privacy Number, these are illegal and are often stolen Social Security Numbers.
  • Advising you to fudge the truth on loan applications – Anyone who tells you to lie to obtain money is a scammer!
  • Requiring you to pay them a hefty sum up front – A reasonable retainer fee requested by a certified debt relief attorney is legitimate and legal. Requests for large amounts of money without seeing results is a reason to walk away.
  • Disputing claims on your credit report that you know to be true
  • Failing to advise you of your legal rights

Instead of following the advice of a fraudulent credit repair company, reach out to a debt relief attorney who has experienced significant success in negotiating with lenders. Ask your attorney for testimonials of previous clients so you’ll know if he’s been able to help people in your same situation before.

Our credit repair methods have saved many, many clients from financial ruin. We can often help you avoid bankruptcy if that is something you desire. On the other hand, we can help you through bankruptcy as well. Bankruptcy is a great way to get a fresh financial do-over.

Negotiating with banks and lenders is our specialty. We can often knock significant amounts off of your overdue balances. We’ll help you formulate a debt payoff schedule and we’ll be with you every step of the way until your outstanding debt is eradicated. Contact us to learn more about how we can help!

 

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