The following is a reprint of a news story originally run by Public News Service.
Mike Moen, Producer
December 8, 2021
ST. PAUL, Minn. – With forbearance protections ending during this stage of the pandemic, some struggling homeowners are sorting out their mortgage options, prompting fears scammers will take advantage of unsuspecting borrowers.
Minnesotans are encouraged to instead seek out free assistance programs.
Homeowners affected by the pandemic got relief through initiatives allowing them to pause their monthly payments. But those limits have been reached for many, and aid groups are reporting forbearance scams, including phony offers to extend protections.
Katherine Kelly, assistant Attorney General for Minnesota, fears they will soon hear more about scams, because they may not be evident right away.
“It takes a very long time for that person to realize it was a scam, because they think they can rest easy knowing that they’ve extended their forbearance, so they’re not monitoring things,” Kelly explained.
Inattention to detail raises the risk of foreclosure. The Minnesota Homeownership Center said a common scam right now involves dubious offers for a cash purchase of the property. Or, if the borrower is working with their lender on options, hackers might intervene with phony messages demanding immediate payment or a fee.
The Center and other nonprofits provide foreclosure prevention help at no cost.
Julie Gugin, president of the Center, said knowing the situation can be stressful, it is best to secure the help of organizations to guide you through the process without asking for a fee.
“We can help you navigate negotiations with your lender,” Gugin pointed out. “We can help you understand your rights, during foreclosure and the process leading up to foreclosure.”
And if you do end up deciding to sell, she advised working with a trusted real-estate professional, not an unfamiliar name who might end up taking your money while your past-due bills pile up. Earlier this fall, an estimated 1.5 million U.S. homeowners were in forbearance plans.
To be connected with a free foreclosure prevention advisor, call the Minnesota Homeownership Center at 651-659-9336 or click here.