For some New Yorkers, buying a property isn't the biggest real estate challenge they face—it's keeping what they've bought. Last week, WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show—a Brick favorite—aired a segment on deed theft, which unfortunately continue to be a problem in the five boroughs, particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
"We believe this is a very widespread problem in NYC right now, based on a spike in the number of homeowners and former homeowners who are calling us and reporting these types of deed thefts," Jennifer Sinton, a lawyer who's been working on these cases at South Brooklyn Legal Services, tells Lehrer, adding that the elderly and those who are having trouble paying their mortgage have been serious targets of the scam.
According to the New York Times, which recently ran a story about LLCs scamming homeowners out of their deeds, these scams are often perpetrated by "white-collar criminals ... employing a variety of schemes to snatch properties from their owners. Often, they use the secrecy afforded to shell companies to rent out vacated properties until they are caught or sell them to third parties."
If you're a homeowner having trouble maintaining payments on your home, experts suggest visiting the website AGScamHelp.com to check if companies claiming they can help you are legit. (Or call 855-HOME-456, which the attorney general's office established to help distressed homeowners.) You can also use the site to report any suspicious real estate offers that may be coming your way.
"People should really be careful about not responding to television ads and radio ads, to fliers in their neighborhoods that talk about 'stop foreclosure, save your home'," says Sinton. "Anyone who calls you in your home soliciting you for any sort of refinance or modification or scam, don't talk to them." If you're interested in selling your home, find a bonafide real estate brokerage firm instead.
Click below to listen to the entire show, or visit WNYC: