Did you make New Year's resolutions? Was personal finance one of them? Refinancing your mortgage may be an option to help you reach your New Year's goals. Many programs are available to help you refinance even if you are underwater. If you are one of the many homeowners who have kept up-to-date on your payments, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, may be for you -- find out if you qualify. But as you look for a program to help you reduce your payments, make sure you don't fall for a scam!
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Con artists have developed intricate scams that are hard to detect. They take advantage of programs and benefits aimed to help those in need or to improve an individual's livelihood and offer "too good to be true services" that are not legitimate. It is important that you do your research and know what to watch out for.
Homeowners who have fallen for HARP-related scams may have been contacted by a third party other than their lender to discuss refinance options and were asked to fill out paperwork with their personal information, or charged a fee for counseling. They may also have been told that the third party would handle all interaction with the lender.
Protect yourself -- look for the HARP logo: HARP is a free government program designed for homeowners who have seen a drop in their property value, causing their mortgage to be considered underwater. Remember, it's always good to do your research first.
Keep these tips in mind:
• Real help is free; there is no need to pay a lender or lawyer for advisory services.
• Don't let anyone pressure you into signing any papers immediately.
• Don't sign any documents you don't understand or paperwork that involves your home and a third party.
• Never make a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage company.
• Watch out for websites not associated with your lender that may be misusing or misrepresenting HARP. Look for the HARP logo as a sign of assurance or visit the official HARP.gov website for complete information.
When you get offers to refinance through HARP, do a quick search to learn more about the company behind the offer. One of your first stops for all HARP-related information should be HARP.gov, where you will find a full list of approved lenders. Then contact your current lender directly to get answers to any questions you may have and to see if you qualify. If you suspect a scam or think you've been scammed, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
More about HARP from Zillow:
Florida Family Saves Big With HARP
What Documents Do You Need for HARP?
7 Common HARP Questions Answered
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Meg Burns is senior associate director for the Office of Housing and Regulatory Policy of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. [This website contains news and information created and maintained by a private organization. The FHFA is not responsible for controlling or guaranteeing the accuracy or completeness of this outside information. Further, the inclusion of any advertisements or other links does not reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any products or services offered.]
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