Beware of Scammers! Don’t Fall for the Scam!

by Sheryll Bonilla, Esq.

You’ve seen these handmade signs posted on utility poles all around town:

Cash paid for your house – any condition.  Call ***-***

What these dishonest grifters do is offer desperate homeowners some money, such as $20,000, to sign over the deeds to their houses with a verbal promise to take over the mortgage.

After the homeowner signs over the house, these con artists then sell the house for full value and make hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile the home loan is not paid off, so the original homeowner is left stuck with the home loan.

The mortgage company goes after the original homeowner who has nothing to say except that so-and-so promised to keep paying the mortgage. The police won’t get involved because there’s no crime involved in a voluntary transaction.

In a legitimate sale, the buyer pays the existing mortgage in full. If the buyer gets a loan or has enough funds to pay off the loan in cash, the conveyance can be concurrent with the signing of the deed.

If the buyer is going to pay overtime, then the buyer and seller sign a contract called “Agreement of Sale” where the buyer’s monthly installments pay off the purchase price and/or existing mortgage.

When the buyer makes the final payment, then the seller signs the deed conveying the house over to the buyer.In these scams, there’s no pay off of the existing mortgage or agreement of sale. The homeowner has no protection that the mortgage he is responsible for, will in fact be paid in full. The grifter sells the house, makes a fortune, and leaves the original homeowner on the hook, legally and financially for the home loan.

In short – stay away from these people.

A verbal promise to pay the mortgage is as good as the air it’s spoken with – absolutely worthless. If this looks like someone may try to con you, tell them what Tom Cruise said: “Show Me the Money” – all of it, the whole price of the home, right here, right now.Another concerning occurrence are those businesses that “help” individuals or families with their Medicaid applications to pay for nursing home care of a senior citizen.

The most distressing are those companies that charge $5000 to “assist” with the application.  These are State of Hawaii forms. They’re not hard to fill in, and if you do need help, you can make an appointment with the state office to have their workers help you with it, for free.

Some families are emotionally overwhelmed by the hardships of a family member who is now so disabled or difficult to take care of, that he or she must be placed in a care home. The change in circumstances creates anxiety, true, but to take advantage of this vulnerability doesn’t sit well with me.

In short – if you can read, you can fill in the forms. Save the money – don’t give it to these people who hang around hospitals looking for their next $1000 to $5000 meal ticket!

Use that for your rainy-day fund, take a vacation, stash it in your retirement fund, fix up the house. Don’t fall prey to those who want to make a profit when you are in a time of need.

Fill in the Medicaid application yourself and keep your money in the family.You may contact the state Office of Consumer Protection. This Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs handles consumer complaints relating to products and services that are not otherwise regulated by the state, such as retail merchandise, mail order purchases, health clubs, and door-to-door sales.

The office also handles issues involving gift certificates, refunds and exchanges of merchandise, and advertising complaints.

The Office of Consumer Protection is located in Honolulu at 235 South Beretania Street, 8th floor, phone number is 586-2630. They also have offices in Hilo at 120 Pauahi Street, Suite 212, phone 933-0910, and in Wailuku, Maui at 1063 Lower Main Street, Suite C-216, phone 243-4648. Office hours are 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, except on state holidays.

For more information, visit hawaii.gov/dcca/ocp.Hawaii Ombudsman.

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs also may look into different areas within its jurisdiction.  For complaints against:

Certain licensed professionals, Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) complaint forms

A cable provider, Cable Television (CATV) complaint forms

Certain financial institutions, escrow depositories, money transmitters, mortgage servicers, mortgage loan originators, and mortgage loan originator companies, Division of Financial Institutions complaint form

A utility, Consumer Advocacy complaint form

An insurance entity, Insurance complaint forms

A securities entity, Securities complaints

General commerce, Consumer Protection complaint forms

Feel free to DCCA to ask for assistance. Thanks to Rep. Ryan Yamane (D-Mililani) for his suggestions for assistance if you are a victim of these deceptive practices.


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