August 21, 2020 · Credit, Real Estate, Savings, Security

Mortgage Scams Are on the Rise

Your home is a tempting target for fraudsters because it is a high-value possession. For a lot of us, our home is both our largest expense and our biggest investment, and that makes our mortgage attractive for crooks trying to scam us.

Unlike your credit card statement and other bills, a home purchase is public record—usually based on a property deed filed in your county's government records—so it is likely that information about your purchase and your mortgage with Delta Community Credit Union will become part of your home's information on file in your county. The information that becomes publicly available includes (but may not be limited to) property owner name, closing date, loan amount and name of the financial company which funded your loan. Because that information is available, scammers may attempt to exploit it to steal from you. If these scammers get enough personal information, they can steal your identity and hijack your accounts, including financial accounts and even your home.

Below are some scammer activities you should be aware of:

Home Title Fraud

Home title fraud is when someone gets a hold of the title of your property and then changes the ownership name on your property title from your name to their name, the name of an accomplice, or to a fake name. The fraud occurs because the scammer had already stolen your identity and pretends to be you to falsely alter the property title. After securing your property title, the fraudster can then apply for multiple loans using the equity in the home as collateral to secure the loans. After getting the loans, the fraudsters take the loan money and disappear. The real homeowner may not have any idea that their home has been taken from them until they start receiving letters from the loan lenders notifying the homeowner that they are derelict in paying their loans back; the real homeowner could then face foreclosure on their property due to the unpaid loans.

Crooks have many ways to obtain your personal information and then steal your identity; following are some of the most common techniques they use for identity theft:

Social Engineering Attempts

When scammers contact you, they will always try to convince you that they are legitimate company employees and are attempting to help you, either by correcting a problem or making you an attractive offer. They will attempt to capture private financial information from you that will let them access your accounts and take money from you. This attempt to trick you into giving up sensitive personal information is known as social engineering.

Social engineering techniques often involve phishing—and similar activities—and fraudulent third-party solicitations by mail; we've got details on these below.

Phishing. Phishing uses fake emails that look like they come from a legitimate source, such as a financial institution. The message may say there was an unauthorized attempt to access your account and you must contact the financial institution immediately; the message uses this threat to convince the potential victim to click a link,call a number or reply via text from their phone and then will try to entice you to share sensitive information. Urgency is an important part of the trickery involved; fraudsters want you to panic and act quickly without considering thoughtfully what they are asking you to do.

If the person who received the email looks closely, there may be grammar or misspellings in the text, and the address, phone number, email domain and website might not be consistent with the information provided by their actual financial institution. Clicking links may take you to a fraudster's fake website to enter in your confidential information or it may offer to download and install some software to infect your phone or computer to steal your information and/or identity. Delta Community Credit Union will never contact you and ask you to provide this type of personal information by email, phone or text.

Smishing. Like email phishing scams, smishing is phone text messages that generally include a threat to convince the potential victim to click a link,call a number or reply via text and then share sensitive information. As with phishing, clicking links may take you to a fraudster's website to enter in your confidential information or it may offer to download and install some software to infect your phone. So please do not respond to a text asking a question, and don't click on a text link if you can't prove who the text is from!

Vishing. Vishing (voice + phishing = vishing) is a combination attack that occurs by a smartphone call rather than email. If you respond to a smish attack, then you may get a follow-up phone call—a vish attack. If someone calls asking you to provide confidential information about your accounts, disconnect the call!

Fraudulent third-party solicitations by mail. Some businesses will use public information to offer services to you, and their communications may look very similar to those coming from your mortgage company. Our members could receive mail using Delta Community's name, but the letter, card or brochure is not actually from us; it just resembles our messages. We do not sell borrower information to these third parties, and they are not acting as authorized representatives of the Credit Union.

If you are contacted by mail, email, phone or text about your mortgage (or any account information) and are concerned or unsure that the message comes from Delta Community, please contact us at 800-544-3328, and we can determine if the communication was sent from us or an unauthorized third party.