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Consumer Watch: Be wary of offers to help in loan crunch

Sometimes it’s a desperate homeowner who can’t make his monthly adjustable rate mortgage payment and transfers his deed to obtain financial relief.

Other times, it is a family that has suffered huge medical expenses, faces foreclosure and succumbs to a stranger’s offer to “buy” its property.

Before making rash decisions, the BBB encourages you to talk to your mortgage lender.

Do not ignore the delinquency letters; contact your lender to explain your situation and ask about how to restructure your loan payment, refinance or extend your loan term.

If the lender is not responsive, try selling the house on your own to pay off the mortgage. Or hire a reputable real estate firm and licensed agent.

If you are unable to sell and decide to use a “home buying service” or do business with someone who offers to help you with the financial situation, be careful.

The BBB offers the following tips for homeowners whose mortgage is in arrears or face foreclosure:

● Read everything before you sign. Get all promises in writing.

Some schemers will offer to complete paperwork for you, or ask you to sign a stack of documents, supposedly to secure a new mortgage. Victims later learn that they signed a quit-claim deed to their home.

● Beware of the personal approach.

Some less-than-ethical businesses will stuff a handwritten note under your front door or mailbox that implies that help is available from someone you know or has your interests in mind. Foreclosure scam artists know exactly what neighborhoods to blanket with such offers.

● If a foreclosure “rescuer” or mortgage “broker” instructs you not to contact your mortgage company or your lawyer, be wary.

● You should never sign a contract, or ink away your property ownership, under pressure.

Remember, signing over your deed to someone does not necessarily relieve you of your loan obligation. Ask your lawyer, a financial professional or a trusted family member to review paperwork you are asked to sign.

● Before agreeing to a deal with a business to buy your home, contact the BBB of Southern Arizona at 888-5353 to request a report on the company and check with the Arizona attorney general, 628-6504, and the Arizona Department of Real Estate, 628-6940.

The BBB of Southern Arizona writes a monthly column in the Tucson Citizen on consumer issues.

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