Lots of homeowners are struggling through the real estate recession—their home values have been slashed, their mortgages are underwater, they’ve lost jobs, and they can’t pay their mortgages. Sound familiar? These homeowners are facing foreclosure or are attempting a last change loan modification—and they’re getting desperate.

The next year doesn’t seem to be looking any brighter as loan modifications and foreclosures are stalled. We can’t expect to see any major improvement while unemployment is high and people continue to struggle to pay their mortgages. There are legitimate resources and help for homeowners (see next week’s blog), but people need to know that there’s not a quick fix and that a too-good-to-be-true scheme is probably a scam.

Types of loan scams

Scammers are constantly changing tactics and looking for new ways to get consumers to fall for their tricks. Have you looked in your email spam box recently? There are probably a couple of good examples of scam artists in there.

Barbara Floyd-Jones, a program manager at NeighborWorks America, works primarily with foreclosure prevention. She says that there are several loan scams she’s seeing more frequently:

1. Lease back. In this scenario, an individual or an organization offers to pay your mortgage if you sign over your home. You will essentially be leasing the home from that individual or organization, and you are usually given the offer to buy the home back in the future. Unfortunately, most homeowners never qualify to buy back the home because the scammer inflates the home price out of range of the homeowner. In the worst cases, the homeowner loses his or her home because the other individual or organization was never paying the mortgage in the first place.

2. Inflated fees. A legitimate housing counselor can help guide you through the process, but he or she can’t do anything you can’t do for yourself. According to Floyd-Jones, 99.9 percent of the time when someone asks you to pay a fee for help with your loan, you are being scammed.

3. “Mass joinder” lawsuits. Do an Internet search for “mass joinder” and you’ll see a list of links warning you about mass joinder lawsuits. Companies will approach homeowners and ask them to join a lawsuit with others against a loan service or provider. Again, they’ll offer to include you—for a fee. The lawsuit is just a scam and a way to bilk homeowners out of their money. Nothing ever comes of the lawsuit, and homeowners are left disappointed at another dead end.

Next week we’ll cover red flags to watch out for to avoid these loan scams, and we’ll share legitimate resources to help struggling homeowners. What problems are you facing? If you’ve been approached by one of these scam artists, leave your comments below.