As more American’s move into retirement, more and more people are taking advantage of a reverse mortgage to access the equity in their home. However, this also means that scams involving reverse mortgages are on the rise. These scams can take many forms, including:
- Contractor Fraud: This scam involves someone convincing you that you need home improvements or repairs that you can pay for by letting them help you take out a reverse mortgage.
- Flipping Fraud: This type of reverse mortgage fraud involves convincing someone to use a reverse mortgage to move into a smaller, less expensive home. Often these homes have been made to look nice but are actually of very poor quality.
- Theft: This is the most simple reverse mortgage scam but also the most destructive. In this scam, a trusted advisor or relative convinces someone to take out a reverse mortgage in order to pay off their existing mortgage but instead simply walks away with the funds.
For more information on types of reverse mortgage scams see http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/071715/beware-these-reverse-mortgage-scams.asp
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself if you are considering a reverse mortgage. First, it is good to know a little bit about how reverse mortgages work. Reverse Mortgage are actually called Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) and are insured by the Federal Housing Authority. In order to qualify for an HECM, a borrower must meet the following qualifications:
- 62 years of age or older
- Occupy their property as a primary residence
- Own (at least mostly) their property
Any product that doesn’t meet the above criteria is something you should be skeptical of. Also, there is an excellent network of advisers across the country who specialize in assisting people who are interested in a reverse mortgage. These counselors are generally FHA housing specialists who can offer their services to you for free or at a very low cost and can help you determine if a reverse mortgage is right for you. In addition, these counselors can help you make sure that the product you are looking at is a legitimate HECM. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a database of HECM counselors across the country that you can use to find help in your area. This database can be found at: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/housing/sfh/hecm/hecmlist
Just like any other financial product, you should never feel rushed in entering into a reverse mortgage. Get help from the network of HUD advisers and help your community by reporting any suspicious reverse mortgage activity to HUD at 1-800-347-3735.