New York families victimized by scams such as false promises of loan modifications lose an average of $4,187 per household, 27% higher than the national average of $3,296.
The involvement of an attorney or alleged attorney pushes the average loss up to $5,212, according to a new study by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and Lawyers's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The study shows that 2,700 New Yorkers - including a disproportionate number of minority and older homeowners - have submitted foreclosure rescue scam complaints, which document more than $8 million in losses.
The scams are largely ignored beyond sections of Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx that were hit hardest by foreclosures and consequently became the biggest targets for scam artists.
Matthew Hassett, co-editor of the study, said the city is still deep in the foreclosure crisis, with fillings rising 30% last year. The study initially was released to the New York Post, which detailed the harm to some homeowners.
For example, James Cheeseman, 47, and his 75-year-old mother, own a home in Queens that fell into foreclosure when Cheeseman lost his job during the recession. Unable to obtain a modification from his bank, Cheeseman became the victim of two scams, paying out a total of $7,000 to companies offering bogus promises of help. Only later did he learn that New Yorkers can obtain free legal assistance by calling 311.
Black homeowners reported the highest average losses to scammers, $5,467, while Latinos reported losing $4,654, compared with $3,100 for white homeowners. The true total of foreclosure scams is likely much higher, since many borrowers feel too embarrassed or ashamed to report being swindled.
By routinely delaying loan modifications and robosigning paperwork, banks have created fertile ground for scammers, the report said.
The report calls for crackdowns on illegal and deceptive advertising, disciplinary sanctions against attorneys involved in scams and changing a law that allows attorneys to collect upfront fees for foreclosure-rescue services.