Real Estate Fraud
Homeownership is one of the oldest and most common paths to building wealth. For many, their home is the most valuable asset they will ever own. But homeownership has become increasingly unaffordable, especially for younger generations. Given that older generations are much more likely to own their homes, the elderly are increasingly becoming the target of real estate fraud, which is a form of financial elder abuse. Losing one’s home can be a devastating blow for anyone, but especially for elderly individuals who often plan to age in place. If you or someone you care about has been the victim of real estate fraud, a California financial elder abuse attorney can help you recover.
Types of Real Estate Fraud
Real estate fraud generally is on the more sophisticated end of the fraud spectrum and, as such, comes in many forms. Some of the most common real estate scams targeting the elderly include:
- Foreclosure rescue scams: These can occur in many ways, but they generally involve the perpetrator promising the victim relief from foreclosure in exchange for the victim deeding their home to the perpetrator in a reverse mortgage scheme
- Reverse mortgages and annuity sales. A financial advisor may try and convince a senior to use reverse mortgage proceeds to but an expensive annuity or life insurance product. This kind of cross-selling is prohibited in California.
- Loan flipping: Occurs when a predatory lender persuades the victim to refinance their mortgage multiple times, with the perpetrator charging high fees and interest on each mortgage
- Escrow fraud: Occurs when the perpetrator impersonates a title company or escrow service and convinces the victim to wire funds to the perpetrator’s account
- Rental scams: Occur when the perpetrator lists a fake property for rent in an attempt to fraudulently collect a rental deposit from the victim
- Moving scams: Occur where the victim enlists the services of a fictitious moving company and pays the fee upfront, only to discover that the “movers” never arrive
- Deed fraud: This can occur when the perpetrator forges a homeowner’s name on a deed and records it, effectively transferring title to the property to the scammer
While not all of these real estate scams necessarily will result in the victim losing their home, many senior citizens rely on their homes as their nest egg. A significant drop in the value of that nest egg can have serious long-term consequences.
Penalties for Real Estate Fraud
Real estate fraud can result in both criminal and civil penalties. For example, various forms of real estate fraud are punishable under criminal laws prohibiting grand theft, mortgage fraud, foreclosure fraud, filing forged documents, and rent skimming. When any form of real estate fraud is committed against an elderly person, that person or their representative may be able to pursue a civil cause of action under California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, which provides for enhanced damages.
Recover From Real Estate Fraud With Help From a San Francisco Financial Elder Abuse Lawyer
If you or someone you care about has been the victim of any form of real estate fraud, an experienced attorney can help you recover. For more information, please contact a California financial elder abuse attorney at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).