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American scamBusters Audri, Jim and Pete bring alarming news from across the Pond that should prove a dire warning for homeowners strapped for cash in dear old Blighty...

Apparently, low interest rates and soaring house prices have encouraged "predatory practices” in America – resulting in the theft of houses, literally.

The con artists use three basic schemes to steal a victim’s home, or as much of the equity in it as possible.

There are many variations, but here’s the basic three:

1) "Equity Stripping" or "Bailout". The scammer "rescues" the victim by getting them to surrender the title deeds, promising that s/he can rent and buy back the house later.

But the scammer simply bleeds the property of most (or all of) the equity and the homeowner usually loses the house.

2) Phantom Help. The supposed “rescuer” charges very high fees for basic phone calls and paperwork that the homeowner could have done himself.

Often, the scammer promises to represent the homeowner in an effort to "work things out", but it's never followed through.

The scammer will insist that the homeowner ignore notices and phone calls from the lender or its agents, almost guaranteeing that the house will be seized. By the time the homeowner knows s/he's been conned, it's too late.

3) “Bait and Switch.” The scammer masquerades as a legitimate housing counselor, armed with mounds of legal documents -- often for new loans to "solve" the homeowner's problem. In reality, the owner signs forged documents that give the scammer ownership.

To make things worse, the victim still owes money for the mortgage, but no longer has the house.

To find potential victims, the scammers consult public notices and purchase lists of bad borrowers from companies that specialise in compiling lists.

They also target people of similar racial, ethnic, religious, and age backgrounds in order to build the trust of potential "pigeons".

Remember… It’s the scammer who wants your bricks and mortar. As the Scambusters rightly point out, "Most banks are not in the business of maintaining or selling property. They're in the business of lending money."

In America, the scams are so new that the law is scrambling to catch up… Prevention is the best remedy.

But after our American cousins rid themselves of this nasty virus, will we catch the same cold?

[For a more in depth study]


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