Banks buy and sell residential mortgages, so it's not unusual for you to take out a loan with one bank, only to have it sold to, and serviced by another.
When this happens, the homeowner usually is contacted by mail, informed of the change and given a new address where the monthly payment is sent. But scammers have figured out how to exploit this to steal homeowners' mortgage payments.
The Nevada Attorney General's office has filed changed against two Las Vegas men for allegedly running just such a scam. The criminal complaint alleges that Joseph Yorkus and James Bartczak set up "Great Western Business Services" to steal homeowners' mortgage payments by fraudulently claiming the mortgage holder's loan servicer had changed.
They allegedly mailed notification to homeowners in Nevada, in effect intercepting heir monthly mortgage payments. Authorities say eventually the homeowner's real mortgage company would declare the loan to be in default.
"This type of corporate identity theft is devastating to the homeowner victim and to the true loan servicer, both of whom are harmed by these types of scams," said Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
Bank of America customers targeted
She said the scam involved sending letters to homeowners falsely stating that servicing of the homeowners' loans had been transferred from Bank of America to Great Western Business Services. The letters instruct homeowners to send their mortgage payments to Great Western Business Services instead of the true servicer, Bank of America.
The alleged scam would result in victims unknowingly missing one or more mortgage payments which could result in a potential notice of default and foreclosure, despite the fact that the homeowner had actually made their payments, albeit to the scammers instead of their true loan servicer.
It's hard to protect yourself against a scam such as this. Consumer authorities say your best defense is to conduct some research about the "new" mortgage company if it's a company you're not familiar with. You can also contact your present servicer to confirm that the loan has, indeed, been sold.