SDCCU® warns: scammers are taking advantage of people’s vulnerability during the current uncertain economic environment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
East County News Service
April 16, 2020 (San Diego) — The COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in an uncertain economic environment, which is creating fear and anxiety for many. With that, scammers are out in full force actively pursuing such vulnerability, exploiting heightened anxieties and generating new fraud strains. San Diego County Credit Union® (SDCCU®) wants to remind everyone to stay vigilant during these unprecedented times and to not fall victim to several common financial scams currently being monitored by authorities—such as loan modification and foreclosure scams, lending scams and investment related scams.
Loan Modification and Foreclosure Scams
Deed-Transferring to a Third Party: Scam artists are telling homeowners that if they move their deed to a third party, they will no longer be responsible for their mortgage payments. This is not true, and homeowners must know that transferring their title to a third party will not relieve them from their mortgage payment. Often times, scammers will ask for a fee upfront to perform the deed transfer and then promise to rent the home back to the owner. Those who are having difficulty making their payments are advised to contact their financial institution or mortgage provider for help, and to not sign their property away.
Intentional Default: Homeowners who are having difficulty paying their mortgage are being contacted by scammers and told to not make their payments in order to get a loan modification. Your mortgage provider is the only entity that can advise on the terms and standards of a loan modification, so they are the only entity that homeowners should listen to with regard to modifications. Those who have fallen on tough times and are in need of a loan modification are advised to contact their mortgage provider.
Several financial institutions have offered financial help to their customers who have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus situation. For more details and/or a complete list of California institutions participating in a COVID-19 relief program, visit dbo.ca.gov.
Advance Fee Scams: Consumers in need of money are advised to watch out for scams where companies are promising loans if a consumer pays a substantial upfront fee first. Do not pay anyone an upfront fee who is asking in return for loan modification or mortgage forbearance services. It’s important to note that advance fees for loan modifications are illegal in California as are collection fees while a loan modification is under review, a denial is in the appeal process or if the borrower is making timely payments.
Investment Related Scams
Pension Advance Scams: This is a scam against future pension payments in exchange for a lump sum of money. These typically involve the pensioner signing over their future payments to investors who provide the funds for cash advances. These are often times, unregulated, high interest rate loans.
Opportunity Zones: These are economically distressed communities where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. These investments are only available through a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF). A QOF may invest in a property or business located in an opportunity zone. However, just because a property is located in an opportunity zone does not mean that it is automatically a good investment. Investors interested in these properties are advised to consult their tax advisor before investing due to the complicated tax structure.
How to Protect Against Financial Scams:
- Check the licensing status of the organization before transacting business.
- Before investing, ask questions about risks and fees, conduct your own research and consult a financial professional registered with a local securities regulator.
- Do not invest in anything that you do not fully understand.
- Watch out for sales techniques involving repeated phone calls, cold calls or high pressure sales pitches hyping the profitability of a deal. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Don’t be fooled by professional looking websites touting current productivity and profits and featuring photos of new production sites. Scammers are getting better and more professional with the techniques they use to capture victims.
Consumers who come across financial scams are asked to contact the Department of Business Oversight (DBO). Consumers and investors can submit complaints to the DBO at https://dbo.ca.gov/file-a-complaint/.
The Department of DBO provides protection to consumers and services to businesses engaged in financial transactions. The Department regulates a variety of financial services, products and professionals. The Department oversees the operations of state-licensed financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, money transmitters, issuers of payment instruments and travelers checks, and premium finance companies. Additionally, the Department licenses and regulates a variety of financial businesses, including securities brokers and dealers, investment advisers, deferred deposit (commonly known as payday loans) and certain fiduciaries and lenders. The Department regulates the offer and sale of securities, franchises and off-exchange commodities. For the complete list, see the Department’s Licensees page.
SDCCU is one of California’s largest credit unions, serving the financial needs of customers in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties. For more information, visit www.sdccu.com.