The Federal Trade Commission has issued a new alert warning consumers to beware of potential scams around mortgage assistance.
This week it said that Americans have lost a combined $106 million to fraud related to the COVID-19 outbreak, and said consumers need to be careful about any solicitations that ask them to pay for access to financial assistance such as stimulus checks, job opportunities and mortgages.
The FTC said that scammers often try to trick homeowners into believing that it’s necessary to pay an upfront fee to get access to mortgage assistance.
“It’s illegal for companies to charge you before they help you with your mortgage, but that doesn’t stop scammers from trying,” the FTC said in a statement.
It advises homeowners who’ve fallen behind on their mortgage payments to speak with their mortgage servicers to discuss what options they have. Those who’re struggling to pay their mortgage or rent can face foreclosure or eviction, and may want to consult with a legal services organization, it added.
Because of COVID-19, scammers have also exploited stimulus checks for their nefarious schemes, the FTC warned. It’s concerned that Congress is currently debating another round of stimulus checks, which could lead to even more fraud. It said that consumers need to be aware that just as with their first stimulus checks, there’s no need to pay a fee to get it.
“Nobody will call you to ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card number,” in order to access the payment, the FTC said.
In addition, the FTC has asked real estate professionals to remain vigilant against wire fraud scams in their transactions. It also wants them to warn their clients, especially as more parts of the transaction are done remotely these days due to social distancing.