Mortgage Closing Scams : How to protect yourself

Closing on a new home can be one of your most memorable life moments. It’s the final and one of the most critical stages in the home-buying journey, but with the exchange of key paperwork and a sizable down payment, it can also be a stressful experience, especially for first-time home buyers.

The FBI has reported that scammers are increasingly taking advantage of home buyers during the closing process. Through a sophisticated phishing scam, they attempt to divert your closing costs and down payment into a fraudulent account by confirming or suggesting last-minute changes to your wiring instructions. In fact, reports of these attempts have risen 1,100 percent between 2015 and 2017, and in 2017 alone, there was an estimated loss of nearly $1 billion in real estate transaction costs.

While it’s easy to think you may not fall for this kind of scam, these schemes are complex and often appear as legitimate conversations with your real estate or settlement agent. The ultimate cost to victims could be the loss of their life savings.

Here’s what you should know and how to avoid it happening to you.

How it works

Scammers are increasingly targeting real estate professionals, seeking to comprise their email in order to monitor email correspondences with clients and identify upcoming real estate transactions. During the closing process, scammers send spoofed emails to home buyers – posing as the real estate agent, settlement agent, legal representative or another trusted individuals – with false instructions for wiring closing funds.

How to avoid a mortgage phishing scam

  • Identify two trusted individuals to confirm the closing process and payment instructions. Ahead of your mortgage closing, discuss in person, or by phone, the closing process and money transfer protocols with these trusted individuals (realtor, settlement agent, etc.). Be cautious about exchanging any details about your closing over email. You may want to use this opportunity to also create a code phrase, known only by these trusted parties, if you need a secure way to confirm their identities in the future.
  • Write down their names and contact information. Use the Mortgage Closing Checklist created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to list these individuals and their primary phone numbers.
  • Before wiring money, always confirm instructions with your trusted representatives. Never follow instructions contained in an email. Verify the closing instructions, including the account name and number, with your trusted representatives either in person or by using the phone number you previously agreed to.
  • Avoid using phone numbers or links in an email. Again, scammers can closely replicate the email address, phone number and format of an exchange from your agents. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments without first confirming with your trusted representatives.
  • Do NOT email financial information. Email is never a secure way to send financial information.
  • Be mindful of phone conversations. It may be difficult to identify whether a phone call is fraudulent or legitimate. Scammers may call and ask you to verify your personal or financial information. When in doubt, always refer back to your trusted professionals to confirm whether it’s legitimate.

What to do if it happens to you

  • Contact your credit union or wire-transfer company immediately. Reporting the error as soon as possible can increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to recover your money.
  • File a complaint with the FBI. Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov .

While it can be easy to think you’ll never fall for a scam of this nature, the reality is that it’s becoming more and more common, and the results can be disastrous for eager homeowners. By being mindful and taking a few important steps ahead of your closing, you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Brought to you by our friends at the Consumer Financial Bureau


Buying or Refinancing? Talk to us first – we are here to help! Connect with our Lending Specialists at 503-275-0300 Option 2 or by visiting our Branch located at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR.

Member Moment : Ria’s USAgencies Credit Union Story

Before we were USAgencies Credit Union, we were Portland Federal Employees Credit Union. Established in 1936, 45 founding members came together with the credit union philosophy of “People Helping People” to form a financial cooperative that could help federal employees with better banking solutions. We are proud to say, that 83 years later we are still living up to our original mission – to provide solutions to improve each member’s financial life.

This was made very clear to us when Ria, a member since 1997,  reached out to us and let us know just how impactful we have been to her and those she cares for over the years, especially during the most recent government shutdown. “I know what it meant to my civil servant co-workers that USAgencies did not throw folks into the cold winter”, she said. “You extended due dates, and made an anxious ridden, scary time bearable. In short, you gave your members peace of mind, which speaks volumes about the integrity of USAgencies, its staff, Board of Directors and Executive Officers”.

Being able to serve Ria over the years, and give her continual exceptional service is something we pride ourselves on. We have always said we will stand by our members, no matter what, and being told we have been true to our word is extremely meaningful. Ria concluded with, “I stayed with you folks because the vibe is, and always has been one of sincere financial caring for your members. That tradition has not waned; it has only grown over the years”.

We strive to be better and do better each and everyday, and are committed to continue to serve Ria, and the rest of our members with integrity and of course, a smile.


Want to share your USAgencies story? Connect with us today at social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0313. We can’t wait to hear from you!

The Portland Rose Festival

Summer is almost here, and in Portland tradition the Rose Festival is paving the way.

During the Rose Festival you and your family can enjoy countless activities. Enjoy old fashion fair food, ride all the rides, take in some shows, and of course catch world class parades!

Check out all the events happening over the course of three weeks, for an unforgettable summer!

May 24  Rose Festival/City Fair* Opening day

May 24 Rose Festival Fireworks Show

June 1 Starlight Run

June 1 PGE/SOLVE Starlight Parade

June 1 American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walk

June 1 RoZone Concert : Disciple Takeover*

June 2 RoZone Concert: 98.7 The Bull Countryfest*

June 2 – 28 Rose Festival Art Show

June 5 Fred Meyer Junior Parade

June 5 – 9 Rose Festival Fleet Week

June 6 – 7 Lloyd Center/Portland Rose Society 130th Annual Spring Rose Show

June 8 Queen’s Coronation*

June 8 Grand FloralWalk

June 8 Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade*

June 8 RoZone concert : Roots & Boots 90’s Electric Throwdown*

June 8 – 9 Grand Floral Float Showcase

June 8 – 9 Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race

June 21 – 23 Good in the Hood Multicultural Festival

June 23 Royal Rosarians Milk Carton Boat Race


Headed to City Fair? Stop by the USAgencies Branch just one block West of the entrance and say hi! We would love to see you. 

*Ticketed Items – Purchase tickets at RoseFestival.org

Member Moment : Ariel’s USAgencies Credit Union Story

At USAgencies, we understand more than ever that life, it happens. It is impossible to predict and prepare for every hurdle or event that life can throw our way. Which is why we make it a mission to stand by our members during the good, the bad, and the sad. The foundation of credit unions is built upon the philosophy of “People Helping People”, and we do everything we can to live that each and every day.

We were recently reminded by how this philosophy truly impacts our members when we spoke to one of our members about a difficult transition she recently went through. Ariel, who lost her husband earlier this year, reached out to let us know how USAgencies was there for her every step of the way. “When my husband passed, a lot of changes happened. Due to that, a payment we received was removed from our account. So not only was I a recent widow, I was beyond broke”, she said. “USAgencies understood this was beyond my control. They worked with me, they were patient, and did not pressure me”.

She went on to add, “I realized this credit union is built on heart, and take care of their own. I truly appreciate that I can rely on them, and trust that they have my best interest at heart”.  Being there for Ariel is something we would never think twice about. As she said, it is instilled in our core values to serve our members with not just integrity, but trustworthiness as well.

Ariel parted with, “I am so grateful for their support during the hardest time of my life”. Our Mission Statement here at USAgencies Credit Union is, ” We provide solutions to improve each member’s financial life”, and that is something we are proud to stand by day by day, with every member.


Want to share your USAgencies story? Connect with us today at social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0313. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Home Equity : What It Is and Why It Matters

It is often said that home ownership builds wealth. So, what is home equity, and how can it enhance your net worth?

What is home equity?

Home equity is the current market value of your home, minus what you owe. You’re looking for a positive number. Any gain comes from:

  • Paying down the principal balance on your loan.
  • An increase in market value over time.

How does home equity work?

Building home equity is a bit like investing in a long-term instrument, like bonds. Your money is, for the most part, locked up and not spendable.

There are some ways to tap it, but wealth is created over years as your share of “free and clear” ownership of the house increases.

It seems simple enough, but home equity is not guaranteed. Just ask any homeowner who went through the last housing bust. That’s when home equity fell sharply for many homeowners — and, in some cases, completely disappeared.

As a rule, building home equity is a slow climb, at best. U.S. residential year-over-year home price appreciation averaged 1.89% from 1997 to 2017, adjusted for inflation, according to CoreLogic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Urban Institute.

However, behind that average are some major year-over-year price swings during the same period, ranging from a gain of 12.6% to a drop of 18.1%, according to the Urban Institute.

When it comes to short-term home appreciation, sometimes it’s more of a bungee jump than a climb.

How do you find out how much equity is in your home?

home equity calculator can give you an idea of what your home is worth and how much equity you may have, if you’re thinking about selling your home or borrowing a chunk of your equity.

An appraisal will really nail down the value of your house.

Why is home equity important?

Home equity can be a long-term strategy for building wealth.

Mortgage payments reduce what you owe while your home gains value, so paying on a house has been called “a forced savings account.”

This is unlike virtually every other asset purchased with a loan, such as vehicles, which lose value while you pay them off.

A growing number of U.S. homeowners are amassing “impressive stockpiles” of home equity wealth, according to Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions.

At the end of the second quarter of 2017, over 14 million U.S. properties were considered “equity rich” — meaning the debt on the property was 50% or less of the home’s current market value.

That’s about 24% of all owner-occupied homes with a mortgage.

Home equity takes time to build

Another nutrient helping to grow home equity wealth is time. Homeowners who stay in their homes longer are more likely to accrue equity.

In the second quarter of 2017, people selling their homes had lived there an average of more than eight years. That was the longest ownership period since Attom began tracking homeownership tenure in 2000. Before the recession, people were staying in their homes an average of about four and a quarter years, Attom data show.

“That’s a paradigm shift — a more conservative approach to homeownership and building wealth through homeownership,” Blomquist says.

Just 10% of homes owned for less than one year are considered equity rich, according to ATTOM.

You don’t have to sell to tap the profit inside your home. Instead, you can borrow against that value with a home equity loan or line of credit. A home equity loan will provide you a lump sum; a HELOC allows you to draw on the available balance as you wish.

Home equity is not a get-rich-quick scheme

Building home equity is definitely a long-term proposition. Blomquist says wise words from one of his relatives may state it best.

“My wife’s great-grandfather — who bought property in Southern California a long time ago — his advice was, ‘You take care of a piece of real estate for 20 years, it’ll take care of you forever.’”

From our friends at Nerd Wallet


Not impressed with your kitchen or bathroom? Dream big with your space! Tackle your next home project with our Home Equity Special — rates as low as 5.21% APR*! Connect with our Loan Specialists today at 503-275-0300 Option 2 or apply online. We can’t wait to help make your dreams come true!

 

*Rate quoted valid for second lien loans only. Available in Oregon, Washington & Idaho. Minimum loan amount is $25,000. Maximum loan amount is $100,000. Maximum loan-to-value is 80%. Rate will vary depending on term, loan-to-value and credit qualifications. 10-year maximum term. Payments: On a $50,000 loan with a 120-month term at 4.99% interest rate (5.21% APR), your monthly payment would be approximately $531.21 or $10.64 per $1,000 financed. Payment approximation does not include taxes or insurance. Offer ends 5/31/2019

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