California prime target for mortgage scams


After a major illness, the professional photographer tried to save his condo with a loan modification. Instead, he lost it to foreclosure after giving a broker nearly $2,000.

"He reduced my mortgage from $785 to $386. And all of this I should have known: If it sounds that good, it can't be true. But I fell for it," he said.

It is stories like Hamilton's that are behind a new public awareness campaign from the California Association of Realtors and the California District Attorneys Association.

Mortgage scams are up nearly 60 percent nationwide in 2012, with California a prime target.

"California is a lucrative target for scammers with seven California metro areas posted in the top ten for foreclosure rates," said LeFrancis Arnold with the California Association of Realtors.

The state expects more fraud as rip-off artists will probably use the recent national mortgage settlement as a way to lure more vulnerable victims.

"We have seen unscrupulous operators having scammed their own friends and neighbors. In fact, scammers are known to target members of their own church and take advantage of their trust," said Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully.

Some red flags include anyone asking for payment upfront, promising to stop the foreclosure process or instructing you to stop contact with your lender, family or friends about foreclosure.

Hamilton ran into all of those signs, but it's too late.

The California Department of Real Estate is also cracking down on the predators. It has revoked more licenses in the past three years than any time in the last two decades.

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