BALTIMORE - The thought of losing your home to foreclosure is heartbreaking and makes some feel desperate to do what they can to hold onto their house. As a result, they can be easy targets for scams and schemes. But those looking for mortgage rescue might find themselves losing even more.
If you're falling behind on payments and facing foreclosure, scammers want to find you. They've made millions duping already drained homeowners and it seems they're trying out a new tactic. According to the federal government's Internet Crime Complaint Center, the tactic is something called a mass joinder lawsuit. The Better Business Bureau is also warning about these lawsuits. Angie Barnett with the BBB of Greater Maryland says, "This is the quintessential twist on another foreclosure rescue scheme."
According to Barnett, mass joinder lawsuits have been marketed by phone to people in at least 17 states, including Maryland. Those soliciting ask you to become part of a lawsuit against your mortgage company. Barnett says, "In this case it's saying that your bank or your mortgage lender actually caused you harm, let's join together and fight those mortgage lenders."
If you're facing foreclosure or feel you've been wronged by your lender, it sounds like a good idea. But the feds warn this is no typical class action lawsuit. Those cases typically require nothing upfront. These mass joinder offers ask you for cash to join, as much as $5,000. That's a huge red flag to Barnett, "You have the fees, you have the way it was solicited and the fact there is no evidence that there's anything happening except those individuals pocketing the money."
For families in crisis, giving up that cash when it's already hard to come by can be a tragic mistake. Experts say to protect yourself from these offers, keep in mind that Maryland doesn't allow upfront fees for mortgage services, so any offer that does is no good. And it's also a no-no to solicit people for these lawsuits by phone, so if your line rings, experts say hang up the phone, hold onto your money and hopefully your home.