By all accounts, reverse home mortgage growth Report Scam and get your money back is set to explode. Baby boomers are reaching retirement and, for most, home equity makes up the largest part of their nest egg. Reverse mortgages will be the tools that many of these retirees will use to tap into this nest egg for retirement living expenses. The number of new HUD Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) already has increased more than percent in the first nine months of 2006 over the same period one year ago.
But along with reverse home mortgage growth come increased opportunities for fraud and scams. Reverse mortgages are different from traditional mortgages in ways that make them attractive vehicles for scam artists: In this article we look at some of the tactics scam artists are using and the precautions reverse mortgage borrowers can take to protect themselves.
An educated borrower is the scam artist’s worst enemy – but it’s up to the borrower to educate themselves and take advantage of counseling and other opportunities to learn about reverse mortgages. All three major reverse mortgage programs – HUD HECM, Fannie Mae’s Home Keeper and Financial Freedom – require potential borrowers to have counseling with an independent counselor specially trained in reverse mortgages before taking out a loan.
In a recent Detroit-area fraud case, a corrupt lender was able to keep the borrower in the dark about the amount she was eligible to borrow. She thought her loan would be for $61,000 when in fact she was borrowing $103,000. Guess who pocketed the $42,000 difference? A thorough counseling session would have given the homeowner an accurate idea of the true amount she was eligible for. Unfortunately for the victim, the prosecutor in the case says this never happened:
“A counseling meeting explaining the reverse mortgage process was required by Financial Freedom before the loan could be processed. Mr. James allegedly informed Ms. Schultz that he would be able to waive the counseling meeting by just asking a few questions over the phone.”
Precaution: Although counseling by telephone is allowed, it is always best to meet face-to-face with the counselor. If you find that anyone you’re working with in the process suggests that counseling can be done quickly over the phone or otherwise downplays the importance of pre-loan counseling, be highly suspicious.
Forgery is a key part of many scams. In the Detroit case cited above, the lender requested the title company to prepare two checks payable to the homeowner: one for $61,000 which the homeowner received and a second one for $42,000 which the corrupt lender endorsed with a forged signature and deposited into his own account.
In one California case, two con artists – one working as a financial advisor the other a handyman – convinced an elderly homeowner to take out a reverse mortgage to pay for home repairs. The financial advisor opened an account for the proceeds of the loan and forged the victim’s name to gain access to funds.