In Nevada, on February 3rd two men were caught allegedly organizing a scam aimed at stealing mortgage payments from homeowners. Joseph Yorkus and James Bartczak were arrested for setting up Great Western Business Services, a Las Vegas company designed to trick homeowners. Here's how it worked:
The company sent official-looking letters to homeowners claiming their mortgages were no longer being serviced by Bank of America. The letters told homeowners to instead send their mortgage payments to Great Western. Those who did found that their payments were not used to pay their mortgages but instead diverted to an account set up by scam artists. They face potential foreclosure and loss of their homes.
Your mortgage was sold--or was it?
These days, mortgages are sold over and over to different loan servicing companies, or lenders go out of business and their portfolios are taken over by new lenders. You don't want to ruin your credit by sending your mortgage payment to the wrong company, but you don't want to be ripped off either. When you buy a home or refinance a mortgage, a public record is created and can often be accessed online. Anyone who looks up the information can find your property address and lender; it's not hard to print official-looking statements on phony letterhead asking you to send your payments elsewhere.
Legally, your original mortgage lender must contact you at least fifteen days before your next mortgage payment due date to explain the transfer of servicing. Your new lender is required to contact you within 30 days as well. You'd think that if you received two notices, everything would be on the up-and-up, but in the Nevada case, the notice from the original lender was a fake, and then the new "lender" could follow up with a note as well and you'd still be out your money.
It never hurts to call your current lender if you get a change notice
You will also want to verify that your taxes and insurance are being paid by your lender if these amounts are included in your mortgage payment (impounded). Check also that your payments get credited to your account properly--when someone else takes over your loan the transition isn't always as smooth you'd like. If your payment includes taxes and insurance, make sure these payments are forwarded properly.