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Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What do you do if the person you thought was helping you keep your home was in fact taking it right from under your feet?

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Sometimes Bronx homeowners and families find themselves in desperate situations whether due to a bleak economic downturn or health issues both which can lead to unemployment or underemployment.

This leaves this segment of the population vulnerable to predators from all sides who will claim to help save your home but in reality are conspiring to take it away from you.

The New York Times has published a special report on the never ending scam of shell companies which promise the world to desperate homeowners and without the homeowner realizing, their homes are taken away from them.

While I worked in the residential real estate appraisal industry, I bore witness to dozens if not hundreds of these instances occurring and often listening to the horrendous tales of these homeowners who just wanted to be a part of the American Dream only to have their life savings taken away leaving them facing homelessness.

These tactics are particularly rampant in neighborhoods experiencing gentrification or ripe for development so really no place is safe.

The New York Times writes:

“Partially paralyzed and reliant on a wheelchair, Ozella Campbell spends a lot of time watching television. It was under those circumstances in February 2014 that she saw a commercial urging her to call MyHouseIsADump.com, a company that offered to buy houses in as-is condition, in cash, and to close the purchase within seven days.

She called the toll-free number and within hours, she said, a well-spoken young man appeared at her brownstone, a longtime family home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn neighborhood in the throes of transformation.

The next day, the man’s associate arrived.

“He said, ‘You don’t have to pay any more bills,’” said Ms. Campbell, who was $1,000 behind on her electric bill at the time.

A third man, named Alex, ostensibly the boss, arrived next. He promised, Ms. Campbell said, to pay her delinquent mortgage, provide for her housing for two years, and pay her $43,800. He also hired a lawyer for her. All she had to do was sign over the deed to her house.

More than a year later, Ms. Campbell, 75, is in limbo. Her former home at 679 Jefferson Avenue is owned by an entity called Jefferson Holding LLC and she is left with her delinquent $529,000 mortgage.

“He lied,” she said tearfully of Alex in an interview at the illegally converted garage in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where she lives for now. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, Mrs. Campbell, we’re going to take care of you.’  ”

Ms. Campbell never learned Alex’s surname. And when her relatives tried to find Jefferson Holding LLC at its Great Neck, N.Y., address, there was no company there by that name.” -Read the rest of the article via The New York Times—Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes’

These and many other examples are common throughout our city and country which is why it is important to thoroughly research any entity that contacts you or you contact for assistance.

Ask your neighbors and fellow home owners questions for they may have had particular experiences to guide you.

Do NOT use an attorney provided by them, make sure you find your own legal representation and if you cannot afford one, contact several of the non profit legal aid services in our borough who can either help you or direct you to someone who can.

You worked hard to own you property and you must make sure you protect it. Inform your family and friends and especially the elderly who often fall prey to these predatory tactics. Knowledge is power and passing on what is happening is important.

Resources:

The Legal Aid Society: 260 E 161st Street, 718-991-4600

Legal Services NYC: 349 E 149th Street, 10th Floor (Bronx Foreclosure Center: 851 Grand Concourse; Courthouse Office: 1118 Grand Concourse, Suite 370) 718-928-3700

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