California Real Estate Scams Seen by Lawyers

March 8, 2009 by  
Filed under National, State, Local

Southern California Real Estate

In more recent times, it has been estimated that one in ten homeowners is either in foreclosure or behind in their payments. With the economic crisis becoming more and more severe, people have become more desperate to find some way to hold onto their houses. With these conditions, it is likely there will be people looking to find victims for their scams and trickery. The number of foreclosure scams have been on the rise.

If you have been a victim of real estate fraud, an unscrupulous loan modification service, foreclosure consultant, it is important that you seek legal advice. If you live within the Southern California region, call the Law Offices of R. Sebastian Gibson at any of the numbers on our website at

Licensed real estate brokers and agents are also victims of these frauds. If you are either, and have been wrongly accused of disobeying the laws and regulations concerning loan modification services or any type of violations, we urge you to call any of the numbers found on the previous website.

Common targeted victims include the elderly, those entering foreclosure or have limited resources, people who have recently lost their jobs or a loved one, those who are not proficient in English, and home owners whose payment amounts have been recently raised.

The moment you enter foreclosure, expect to be inundated with offers of help from many individuals with generic type sounding names, and some claiming even to have references from churches near you. These are, in most cases, some of the people you should stay away from at all cost.

The moment you enter foreclosure, expect to be inundated with offers of help. Be wary of individuals with generic sounding names and those claiming to have references to churches near you. These are just examples of people you should stay away from.More often than not, the person who will approach you is well-dressed and groomed, personable and seems trustworthy. Some utilize their social skills to put you at ease, and may claim to have the same religion or church, or to have been in the military. These people may also claim to be working for non-profit organizations or government branches so that they may be able to gain your trust.

The following is a list of the more common scams and what you can do to avoid falling victim to them.

1) The Disappearing Foreclosure Consultant – Armed with references and a kind voice, this person promises to help you hold off foreclosure with an upfront fee for their time. Once the money clears their bank, however, youll never see or hear from them again. This person performs little to no service, and robs you of your money. This eventually leads to a greater problem as you are left with less time to save your home from foreclosure.

2) Loan Modification Helpers – With this particular scam, you are asked to pay a fee upfront to the

loan modification expert. He or she will negotiate directly with your bank, however, it never happens. If the expert

is effective in gaining your trust, you may find yourself paying your mortgage directly to him or her rather than your mortgage company. The payments you will have made will go directly to the expert, putting you in the hole, and may find yourself on the way to foreclosure.

3) Just Sign Here Scams – As foreclosure becomes more and more real, some offers of help seem better as they allow you to remain in your home. If you sign papers without having a lawyer analyze them, you may agree to signing over a house to a stranger while still being held responsible for the mortgage payments. This person either sells your house or collects additional fees before evicting you.

4) Sale and Leaseback Scams – This particular scam sounds appealing, as the con artist will promise to bail you out and fix all problems so long as you sign the title in your home to them while paying rent. They will claim that this will only happen if the property is in their name. These rent payments will go directly to theconsultant and you will find yourself with bigger troubles. You may find yourself evicted once you stop making the excessive rent payments. This scam may be particularly tempting if you have recently lost your job and are having trouble making house payments, even with equity. Normally, you would still be entitled to the excess equity if your house is sold in foreclosure. With this scam, however, you will lose the equity as it is in the name of the new owner.

5) The Trust Me, I’m Religious or I Was In The Military Too Scam – Those who utilize this particular scam will have claim to be members of social organizations that you belong to, such as the church or former military members. Complete with references from church or military haircuts, they promise to help you out if you add their name to the title of the home. They may have gone through all the mail in your trash and have adequate knowledge of you and your background. They will tell you that theres no need to see a lawyer. Hold on to your wallet and dont sign anything, you may find yourself swapping more than just military stories.

6) Sign Me Up Scotty And Get A New Loan Scam – This scam, like most others, will employ someone to convince you to add him or her to your title by signing a Grant Deed or other legal document, which you really dont need to read. In turn, this person will be able to apply for a new loan. If this loan is approved, you may find yourself paying for old and new loan payments, and any upfront fees you had paid will disappear.

7) Buy My Books, Take This Seminar And Make Millions Scam – This offer manifests itself on late night television or even billboards. Instead of signing over your title, you are talked into buying books that are full of useless information. You may think that these will save you from foreclosure, but you may find yourself behind bars. You may unknowingly be practicing law without a license, or acting as a loan modification expert without a real estate license and advance fee agreements approved by the Commissioner of the California Department of Real Estate, and without registration with the California Department of Justice.

8) The Short Sale Scam – The specialist who contacts you promises to accomplish a short sale in a small amount of time while protecting your credit. He will want a fee, which could be better spent on other things. When the real estate market was better, there were more aspects to this scam that are difficult now due to the economy.

9) It’s Like Magic – Here, you may be told to sign one thing, but will end up signing something entirely different. In some instances of this particular scam, the scam artist will also serve as the notary. Forgery is often utilized and identity theft employed as well.

10) Want Somewhere Cheap To Rent Scam – A homeowner or leasing agent will offer to rent or lease you a vacant residential or commercial property. Unfortunately, the person you are talking to isnt the owner, and leasing agents have no authority to offer you a property for rent or lease. If you fall for this scam, you will find yourself giving very investing in bogus rent payments and security deposits.

11) How About A Nice Loan Modification Scam – Like foreclosure consultants, loan modification services are strictly regulated by California status. If you fall victim to a fraudulent foreclosure consultant or someone promising to obtain a loan modification on your behalf, you may find yourself in a hole, especially if these people have violated the California statutes. You may find yourself entitled to any money paid to them, and also actual damages, equitable relief, attorneys fees and punitive damages three times the amount you may have originally paid.

One you have fallen victim to any one of these scams, it is difficult to recover your money. In some cases, the person attempting to dupe you may not know better and are otherwise responsible citizens and business people. It is particularly erroneous if the person fails to research the law thoroughly, and may have insurance or assets that may cover their indiscretions. Such defendants may include, but are not limited to, real estate brokers, foreclosure consultants, loan modification companies and mortgage brokers.

The parties listed may be responsible if they made misrepresentations, committed fraud, charged and collected fees in advance for foreclosure consultant services, failed to follow the regulations set in the California Civil Code and Business Professions Code, or had you pay fees in advance that had not been approved by the Commissioner of the California Department of Real Estate. California laws are strict in regards to when you may be charged fees for services and with what circumstances.

If someone makes promises or presentations to you without any intent to perform the services promise, and if you have been damaged as a result of your reliance on those promises, you may have a valid claim against that person for fraud. These promises may include a promise that they will be able to obtain a modification of your loan, or save you from foreclosure, that may require you to pay upfront fees that often do very little good.

Here are the five tips of advice we recommend to anyone in this situation being approached by people offering help.

1. Avoid any solicitations of help that come unexpectedly, by mail, e-mail and by telephone or to your door.

2. Avoid using any help agencies whose name you find on roadside signs such as those which state “We Buy Homes For Cash” and those which promise to “Stop Foreclosure.”

3. Avoid paying up-front fees to foreclosure or loan modification experts.

4. Disregard anyone who tells you not to talk to your bank or tells you to avoid consulting with a lawyer.

5. Don’t sign anything without having it reviewed by a real estate lawyer.

Red flags that you should watch out for include requests for the following: upfront payments before services have been performed; payment by case, cashiers checks or bank wires only; transfers of title, actions to be taken immediately, power of attorney, signatures on grant deeds, signatures without any explanation or while under time constraints, signatures on incomplete documents, and mortgage payments to persons other than the mortgage company.

Other red flags include unqualified promises, offers that sound too good to be true, failure to provide copies of signed documents, oral promises that conflict with written provisions, refusals to put the oral promises in writing, oral statements that the provisions in writing dont mean or wont be enforced, an warnings not to discuss the matters of the agreement with outside parties such as attorneys and lenders.

If you have a business or real estate legal matter in Palm Springs, Ontario, Temecula, Newport Beach, Anaheim, or anywhere in Southern California, seek our offices. We have firms in Palm Springs, San Diego, Orange County, Inland Empire, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. Our firm has the knowledge and resources to be Business Lawyers and Real Estate Attorneys.

If you are a victim of real estate, business, loan modification, or foreclosure scams or frauds, be sure to hire a law firm with experiences in these areas in the state of California, and will ensure that your rights are properly represented.


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