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October 15, 2015
BROOKLYN, NY, October 15, 2015: On Tuesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams hosted a forum with New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman at Brooklyn Borough Hall focused on deed theft and mortgage scams in the housing market that are impacting local homeowners, a problem exacerbating Brooklyn’s affordability crisis; according to a report from real estate appraiser Miller Samuel, the median sale price of a Brooklyn home during the third quarter of 2015 was $676,250, 15% higher than the same time a year ago. Borough President Adams and Attorney General Schneiderman, along with representatives from the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and participating organizations in the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), outlined the scamming behavior and warning signs for homeowners locally and statewide to know; since 2010, almost 3,000 New Yorkers have been victims of foreclosure rescue scams.
“Brooklyn is the center of New York City’s affordability crisis, and predatory scammers that try to take advantage of struggling homeowners are exacerbating this crisis,” said Borough President Adams. “We must continue to be vigilant in warning those most vulnerable about the threats to their financial well-being. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his partnership on educating Brooklynites and his commitment to tackling deed theft and mortgage scams in this borough. It is my hope that we will use the ‘each one, teach one’ method to spread the word on warning signs of this insidious scamming behavior.”
“My office is dedicated to using all the tools at our disposal to ensure that New York families are able to protect themselves against scammers looking to exploit the housing crisis” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our Homeowner Protection Program has helped over 50,000 families at risk of foreclosure connect with free legal and counseling services. I thank Borough President Adams and our citywide partners for their partnership in these efforts, and for standing with New York homeowners.”
Borough President Adams and Attorney General Schneiderman outlined a list of indicators for homeowners to look out for that may hint at a mortgage scam, including: guarantees and promises of results, upfront fees for foreclosure prevention services, requests to send mortgage payments to anyone other than one’s mortgage lender or servicer, confusing language or paperwork, requests to transfer ownership of one’s property to a mortgage assistance company, and aggressive sales pitches. It was also explained that scammers may use a variety of methods to entrap homeowners, such as using legally intimidating language, threatening sham lawsuits, offering forensic audits, or mimicking the appearance of an official notice.
During the forum, it was noted that New York homeowners have reported larger losses to scammers than in the rest of the country, losing almost $900 more on average than homeowners nationwide. Communities that have been particularly impacted in the borough include neighborhoods in east and central Brooklyn, such as Brownsville, Canarsie, and East New York; data shows that these areas have also suffered some of the city’s highest number of foreclosure filings. Information from the 2010 US Census and reports to the Lawyers’ Committee’s Loan Modification Scam Database both indicate that African-American and Hispanic victims have lost more on average than their Asian-American and Caucasian counterparts.
The event was open to the public, with approximately 6,000 families that are at risk for foreclosure in the borough having been personally invited to participate. In addition to this effort, the Office of the New York State Attorney General has launched a comprehensive advertising and outreach campaign to raise awareness about AGScamHelp, a web-based app that homeowners can easily access on their computers, smartphones, and tablets. At AGScamHelp.com, homeowners can search to see if organizations offering to help them are government-vetted, get connected to trustworthy help, review tips on how to identify a scam, and report scammers directly to the Office of the New York State Attorney General.
Citywide and Brooklyn-based partners in HOPP that participated in Borough President Adams’s forum included Brooklyn Housing and Family Services, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A; Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project, CAMBA, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Jewish Association Serving the Aging, MFY Legal Services, MHANY Management, Inc., Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant, and South Brooklyn Legal Services.
“We are grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman and Borough President Adams for continuing to shine a light on these pernicious scams that homeowners are up against,” said Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods. “Only by continuing to bring this topic into the spotlight do we stand a chance of shutting the door on scammers and truly safeguarding our neighbors’ homes. If you think you might be a scam victim, or you’re unsure where to turn for help, we are here for you: go to AGScamHelp.com or call 1-855-HOME-456.”
Additionally, Borough President Adams gave special thanks to Jomo Gamal Thomas, Esq., a private attorney that first brought the extent of the predatory behavior to his attention.
“This is a new beginning for many Brooklyn homeowners because of the support of the New York State Attorney General and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President in investigating deed fraud and fraud schemes,” said Thomas. “Hopefully, this will result in greater prevention of deed fraud, criminal prosecution for deed fraud and the re-conveyance of properties that were transferred as a result of fraud for Brooklyn residents. We also need to push for legislation in Albany that would change the process for deed recording and further assist us in permanently alleviating deed fraud.”
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
p: (718) 802 3700 | f: (718) 802 3778