Recent employment numbers show that Dubois County’s unemployment rates have risen from 6% to 6.6% in February. Gas prices, slower economic growth, and other factors have been pointed out but the harsh reality is there are people in this county that do not have jobs.
These individuals are facing the uncertainty of being without an income and this may lead to foreclosure. Although the rates of foreclosure in Dubois County are lower than much of Indiana (currently approximately 20 homes are in foreclosure in Dubois County), the thought of foreclosure is terrifying and equally terrifying is the thought that you may fall victim to a scam.
“People don’t realize that we provide mortgage assistance for free,” said Neil Elkins, Housing Services Director for Tri-Cap. “Those commercials you see on TV, if they are charging anyone for the mortgage assistance, it’s a scam.”
Commercials touting mortgage assistance play all day long on local cable channels. These companies may not be scamming individuals directly but they charge fees for the “assistance” they provide. TRI-CAP offers housing counseling and assistance free of charge by certified housing counselors.
Through the Hardest Hit Fund TRI-CAP can also provide up to $18,000 in assistance to individuals who have been unemployed at anytime in the past 12 months. The assistance is available to help people pay their mortgages and keep their homes.
The Hardest Hit Fund is a fund available in states struggling with unemployment rates at or above the national average or steep home price declines greater than 20 percent since the housing market downturn. The state of Indiana qualifies and while Dubois County has been spared some of the economic woes of the state, nearby Perry, Crawford, and Orange counties are considered at the highest risks.
Executive Director Joyce Fleck explained how poverty can strike anyone and many people may not know of all of the programs Tri-Cap provides. “Look at the average income of the individuals we have helped in the past year with the Hardest Hit Fund program. They are making 220% of the average median income in the areas we service.”
This is the first time some of these people have faced a financial crisis like this. Elkins related a story of an older client assisted by Tri-Cap. “He said he was so relieved to find us. He didn’t know we could help him. I don’t know if he saw a flyer or something, but he told me if he hadn’t gotten help from us his only option was to take his own life.”
The following is from the website www.loanscamalert.org.
6 things you should know to spot a scam
Scams aren’t always easy to spot – but it helps if you know the warning signs to look for. Here are six red flags to indicate that you may be dealing with a loan modification scammer:
- A company/person asks for a fee in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance or reinstate your mortgage. They may pocket your money and do little or nothing to help you save your home from foreclosure.
- A company/person guarantees they can stop a foreclosure or get your loan modified. Nobody can make this guarantee to stop foreclosure or modify your loan. Legitimate, trustworthy HUD-approved counseling agencies will only promise they will try their very best to help you.
- A company/person advises you to stop paying your mortgage company and pay them instead. Despite what a scammer will tell you, you should never send a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage lender. The minute you have trouble making your monthly payment, contact your mortgage lender.
- A company pressures you to sign over the deed to your home or sign any paperwork that you haven’t had a chance to read, and you don’t fully understand. A legitimate housing counselor would never pressure you to sign a document before you had a chance to read and understand it.
- A company claims to offer “government-approved” or “official government” loan modifications. They may be scam artists posing as legitimate organizations approved by, or affiliated with, the government. Contact your mortgage lender first. Your lender can tell you whether you qualify for any government programs to prevent foreclosure. And, remember, you do not have to pay to benefit from government-backed loan modification programs.
- A company/person you don’t know asks you to release personal financial information online or over the phone. You should only give this type of information to companies that you know and trust, like your mortgage lender or a HUD-approved counseling agency.