Watch Out for Reverse Mortgage Scams in Seattle, WA

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonYou may hear about email scams, telephone scams, door-to-door soliciting scams – but what about reverse mortgage scams? Unfortunately just as we have scams in every segment of society and at every opportunity, reverse mortgages and seniors are not immune to such activity.

In the past decade, reverse mortgages also known as Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HCEM), have increased more than 1,300 percent! This certainly offers an astounding opportunity for fraud perpetrators.

What do reverse mortgage scams look like?

Victims may be offered a free home, an investment opportunity, or foreclosure and refinance assistance. Senior citizens are often unsuspecting targets for scammers, as they are not familiar with the multitude of unscrupulous and dishonest “programs” that exist. Scammers reach their victims often through churches, investment seminars, television, radio, billboard, and mailer advertisements.

When considering a reverse mortgage product, it is very important to research the company. Most reverse mortgages are insured by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). Seek out companies that are a member of the Better Business Bureau and associated with the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Tips for Avoiding Reverse Mortgage Scams:

• Do not respond to unsolicited advertisements.
• Be suspicious of anyone claiming that you can own a home with no down payment.
• Do not sign anything that you do not fully understand.
• Do not accept payment from individuals for a home you did not purchase.
• Seek out your own reverse mortgage counselor.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Are You Prepared If Your Spouse Dies?

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonRegardless of age, losing a spouse is difficult – and the impending “business” that comes along with it doesn’t make it any easier.  This is why we should all ask ourselves at some point, “Am I prepared if my spouse dies?”.  There are so many various aspects to being “prepared”, and although I can’t help with many of them, I can help with some simple suggestions to making sure you aren’t stuck with unexpected questions.

It’s not uncommon in marriages or partnered relationships for each spouse to take care of different bookkeeping tasks.  For example, it’s very common for the husband to manage retirements funds – pensions, IRA’s, etc.  While the wife may handle personal address books or paying bills.  Take a minute and think about this.  Not only what  you may not know, but what your spouse may not know.

Here are some suggestions to putting this information in order:

• Begin by making a list over a week or two, and ideally an entire month.  Make note of what “business” you do.  How many passwords did you need online?  How many account numbers on the phone?  What about PINs?  The results may surprise you.  In today’s high tech yet overly scammed world, everything is secured under lock and key.

•  Although it is best if both spouses can contribute to this exercise it is not a requirement.  Either way, spend some time brainstorming together.  We often will remember things when discussing them with someone else.

• It’s important to make a physical list of this information, whether typed or handwritten.  What you shouldn’t do though is save this information online.  Hackers will seek data that includes account numbers, logins, and passwords and this could lead to compromising your accounts and even identity theft.  Even if you think it’s secure, there really is little guarantee that is true.  Keeping this list with your most important documents – such as birth certificates, titles to homes and vehicles, etc – is going to be your safest bet, but make sure both spouses know where to find it.

What to include on your list:

Name and phone number of company, account numbers and any PINs associated.  If using online management of account, include website URLs of where to login, login name and password, and any auto pay information.  If there are specific people you work with at these companies, include their names.

If only one spouse is listed on the account, make an effort to add the other one.  I recently witnessed an elderly woman at the DMV who was unable to renew her driver’s license because all the mail that came to the home was in her husband’s name.  This is more common than many people realize – and often they don’t even know until they’re caught in jam.

• Home loan
• Home insurance
• Car loan
• Car insurance policies
• Health insurance policies
• Life insurance policies
• Bank accounts
• Credit card accounts
• Pension, IRA, annuities, etc
• Utilities – electric, water, gas, phone, trash
• Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
• Contact information for family and friends
• Contact information of bankers, retirement or financial planners, loan officers
• Contact information for doctors, dentists, pharmacies, veterinarians, etc (and a little info about what each one is for)

These lists will vary from person to person, so make sure to add your own ideas.  Also be sure to update it when anything changes or is added – because hopefully you won’t need it for quite a few more years!

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

BEWARE: Scams and Identity Theft

ID-10079656Unfortunately scams and identity theft target older consumers more than any other demographic.  Whether you’re a consumer yourself or you work with the senior population, you need to not just be aware, but be on the defense at all times.  You will never regret being extra diligent.

One of the most common types of scams is what’s called “phishing”.  This is where highly skilled con artists use various techniques to obtain information about a pending transaction (common in real estate) or other information they can use to obtain financial information.  Sometimes this information is found by hacking into non-secure servers, other times it’s found by following what someone is saying on Facebook or other online forums.  Regardless of how it’s obtained, both the senior consumer and the professional working with the senior consumer need to be advocates for their privacy.

Here are my tips to prevent becoming a victim of this type of fraud:

1.) NEVER provide personal information via email, always do this over the phone, or over a secure server on a website.  If someone requests it from you in an email, call them.  If you’re a professional working with consumers, never request this information be provided via email.  If you do, you are putting your clients at unnecessary risk.

2.) NEVER wire or transfer money according to instructions you receive in an email – even if you have corresponded with this person.  Fake email accounts look nearly identical to authentic ones and it can be very difficult to tell the difference.  This is VERY important; don’t take the risk.  Recently tens of thousands of dollars have been sent to scammers during real estate transactions because the consumer was being targeted and they did not verify any information over the phone or in person.  ALWAYS speak with anyone who is asking you to wire money – preferably in person – and always use the phone number you already have for them, not a phone number sent in an email.

2.) NEVER follow a link that comes in an email to your bank account or other account that will have access to your private, personal financial information.  This includes banks, credit cards, loans, PayPal, IRS, etc.  This is one of the most common phishing scams.  When you receive a phishing email, it will seem you are being alerted to various scenarios – possibly a fraudulent transaction, an overdrawn account, or another “urgent” situation.  Everything looks legit; they will have your name and often more information.  Most of the time these emails are scams!  As soon as you go to the link provided, and enter your login and password, it’s been stolen.  To prevent this, ALWAYS login directly from your internet browser by typing in the website URL directly as you already know it and use it.  Don’t hesitate to call and ask the bank or other institution about the email (using the number you already have, again, don’t use information given to you in a potentially fraudulent email).  All financial institutions want these reported.  It’s how they are stopped.

4.) Whether a consumer or professional working with consumers, ALWAYS use secure hosting and servers with strong security.  Password protect your wireless networks.  Hackers are highly skilled – but you are your own first defense against them.

For more information about protecting yourself against identity theft, click here.  You can never be too careful or diligent in protecting your personal details and assets.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Reverse Mortgage Terms to Know – Part 3

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonPretty soon you will find yourself versed in the language of reverse mortgage. There are a number of reasons this will be helpful. First of all, you can read information on your own and understand the basic meaning. Second, you will be able to understand what your counselor has to share with you as the outline and give the valuable consulting time to deeper questions. And third, you can protect yourself from scams and those who would try to use terminology that could mislead you.  This final installment of “Terms to Know” focuses on terms you may run across when applying for and finalizing the loan.  As with any contract, it’s important to read and understand what is in it.  I hope this will help.  You can find the previous installments to this series by clicking here for “Terms to Know – Part 1” or click here for “Terms to know – Part 2” and here for “Terms to Know – Interest Rates“.

There are a few different kinds of advances to know. The first would be a Loan Advance which simply means the payment to the borrower or their designated party, it is an umbrella term under which the other advances fall. Another would be a Fixed Monthly Loan Advance which is exactly what is sounds like, the payment made monthly that remains the same to the borrower. A Term Advance is the same as a Fixed Monthly Loan Advance except that it is for a period of time and not the length of the loan. The last is a Tenure Advance which is a fixed monthly loan advance for the duration of time the borrower is living in the home.

If you receive the entire loan at closing this is called a Lump Sum. Sometimes a Lump Sum comes from a DPL, or Deferred Payment Loan. This type of loan gives you cash for home repair or maintenance and is usually offered on the local or state government level. From time to time the government may take hold of property for community use, such as building a needed highway, the right to do this is called Eminent Domain. A Credit Line is another way to employ a reverse mortgage for your needs. It is an account that lets the borrower decide how much and when they would like to take money. Line of Credit is another term for the same credit account.

Two terms common to the end of a reverse mortgage and the beginning of repayment are Loan Balance and Leftover Equity. The Loan Balance is the amount owed. It is capped in a reverse mortgage by the value of the home at the time the loan is repaid and will be the sum of principal and interest. If you take the sale price of the home and subtract out the cost of selling it and the amount owed you will get the Leftover Equity. This is what either the homeowner or the heirs will receive.

Reverse mortgages are available to seniors 62 and over, including married couples.  The funds can be accessed in a variety of ways including monthly installments, a line of credit, a lump sum, and to purchase a home.  Homeowners with a reverse mortgage will be able to stay in the home as long as they desire and the will NEVER have a loan payment until the last borrower permanently leaves the residence.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.


Reverse Mortgage Terms to Know – Part 2

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonIn continuing my series of “Terms to Know”, this third installment goes over some very common acronyms used in the reverse mortgage industry.  Understanding what these mean can help with understanding on a more detailed level when doing research or speaking with a specialist, as well as when applying for or finalizing the loan.   You can find “Terms to Know- Part 1” of this series here, and “Terms to Know – Interest Rates”, by clicking here.

There are a few notable agencies involved in the federally created reverse mortgage system. These are HUD, FHA, and AAA. All are designed to help the one seeking a reverse mortgage understand the process and proceed safely. Like any product where the lender is receiving advantage alongside the borrower, it is good to be cautioned about scams. The best route when considering a reverse mortgage is to always work with a reputable reverse mortgage specialist.

The HUD is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They not only instituted the reverse mortgage (aka HECM – Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) program, but also provide solid third party counselors to help you sift through the options and make sure all questions are answered. The FHA is the Federal Housing Administration. It is the part of the HUD that insures reverse mortgages.

The AAA stands for Area Agency for Aging. This organization provides information and resources for aging adults. They can be found as non-profit agencies right in your town or region. Not only can you find information about the variety of reverse mortgage options but many other resources available to senior citizens.

A reverse mortgage can be called both HECM and Reverse Mortgage, but they are the same thing, the terms are interchangeable.   They are also often referred to as Federally Insured or FHA Insured Reverse Mortgages.  Another term you may run across is Model Specifications; these are recommended rules for both analyzing and comparing reverse mortgages.

Reverse mortgages are available to seniors 62 and over, including married couples.  The funds can be accessed in a variety of ways including monthly installments, a line of credit, a lump sum, and to purchase a home.  Homeowners with a reverse mortgage will be able to stay in the home as long as they desire and they will NEVER have a loan payment until the last borrower permanently leaves the residence.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Summer Visits Lead to Reverse Mortgage Conversations with Adult Children

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonAs summer vacation is in full swing, many of us are reflecting on our experiences visiting with family.  Maybe you took your children on a camping trip or to Disneyland.  Possibly you flew overseas to experience a new culture.  Or maybe you took a road trip to visit your aging parents or other loved ones.  If you visited with elderly family members, it likely came with mixed emotions.  Every year they are a little older – and for some, every year brings just a little more worry.

This is very common after a visit.  It may raise concerns about health or finances, and questions about how aging parents will continue to cope.  If you’re wondering when and how you need to intervene, ask yourself these questions:

• Are they able to get around by him or herself? Are there stairs in the home?

• Is this person able to take medications without assistance? Is there a health concern that would require more regular supervision, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s?

• Is your parent able to manage mortgage payments, home-owners insurance payments, and property taxes? Is the home outdated and in need of frequent repairs – such as a furnace, roofing, electricity?

• Where is this home located? Is it in close proximity to relatives, hospitals, etc? Or is it secluded and away from town?

• Is this person lonely? Has he or she suffered the loss of a spouse? Does he or she have a solid social group or close friends?

Based on your answers to these questions, aging in place may be the right solution, and if financial strains exist surrounding the current mortgage, a reverse mortgage may be an option. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners age 62 and older to access equity in their home. The homeowner retains the title and remains in the home. With a reverse mortgage homeowners will live the remainder of their lives mortgage payment free, and can receive their funds as a monthly installment, a line of credit, or sometimes as a lump sum.  Nearly all reverse mortgages are government guaranteed with FHA insurance and no repayment is due until the last borrower passes away or permanently leaves the home.  At that time there are several options that include keeping the home in the family.

It is especially important to work with a reputable lender and watch out for scams if parents or loved ones are considering a reverse mortgage.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Understanding Elder Law

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonElder law is a relatively unknown segment of law and is often overlooked when seeking legal solutions.  But for some seniors and their families in the Seattle, Washington area, an elder law attorney may be exactly what they need.  Elder law is very broad and includes things like estate planning, probate, guardianship, real estate, nursing home neglect and a dozen other areas of law that affect the elderly. Typically one lawyer will not have expertise in every area, but will instead work with a network of attorneys who can supplement in specific areas when needed and vice versa.  Also, keep in mind just because an individual is elderly does not mean they need an elder law attorney.  Elder law is focused on legal problems specific to the elderly.  Concerns with other areas of law may best be handled by attorneys dedicated to those areas.

An elder law attorney should be educated and informed on reverse mortgage.  It is common for them to receive questions from clients, former clients, and their families about reverse mortgage when establishing estate plans or when they are considering a reverse mortgage for the first time.   It is highly encouraged to make sure any question receives an adequate answer  – and often elder law attorneys are part of that equation.  This can also help with avoiding reverse mortgage scams.

Here are a few questions to ask when seeking out a an elder law attorney:

• How long has the attorney been practicing?
• What percentage of the attorney’s practice is devoted to elder law?
• Does his or her practice emphasize a particular area of elder law? (for instance, guardianship or other specific work)
• How much elder law training has the attorney had, and from what organizations?
• Is the attorney a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys?
• Will the attorney be able to work within your time limitations?

In addition to a legal network, an elder law attorney should be familiar with the “elder network”, a network of public and private community resources to assist seniors in various capacities.  This should include a reputable reverse mortgage lender.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Taking a Look at Senior Identity Theft in Seattle, WA

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline WashingtonIdentity theft is a serious problem, especially among seniors in the Seattle, Washington area who can be easy targets.  There are ways to protect yourself and measures you can take to ensure you or someone you love is not a victim.  Let’s start with the basics…

What is Identity Theft?

According to the 1998 Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act identity theft is when someone“knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.”

Types of Identity Theft

• Financial identity theft

This involves using another’s identity to obtain credit, product or services.  Improtant financial information can often be obtained via internet scams or telephone scams.

• Identity cloning

When someone assumed the identity of another person and uses it in daily life.

• Medical identity theft

This is similar to identity cloning, except it is only used to obtain medical care or drugs.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?

In today’s technology driven society, protecting your identity is more important than ever.  It happens everyone, some you can avoid by taking the right precautions, and others you can’t do anything about.  In recent years hackers have managed to obtain and use tens of thousands of credit card information by finding and exploiting security holes in the credit card companies.  This is an example of identity theft that can not be avoided by the consumer.

“Phishing” emails and text messages are one of the most common ways to obtain private identity information.  This is where you receive an email or text message that appears to come from a financial institution, such as your bank or PayPal.  These often appear urgent, so you follow the link to sign in – but the catch is you’re actually on a fake website and you’ve just given a scammer access to your private information.  But, don’t assume identity theft only happens online.  Similar scams happen via telephone calls, where it is supposedly the IRS contacting you about a small outstanding balance, and before you know it you’ve handed over your credit card number and all the relevant information.  Identity theft can happen anywhere, anytime.  Someone could be watching over your shoulder as you fill out a form at your doctor’s office.  Another individual could be rummaging through your trash, hoping to find a tossed out credit card offer.  There are many ways to fall victim to identity theft, arming yourself with facts and prevention is key to protection.  You can NEVER be too careful.

How do I protect myself from Identity Theft?

• Be aware of your surroundings.  When filling out forms that include private information, take a seat away from others when possible. Never throw out forms or paperwork that may have your personal information on them, always take these home with you and dispose of them properly.

• Don’t toss out credit card offers or other junk mail that pertains to obtaining credit.  In addition, any other private information you have – bills, car registration, insurance documents, bank statements – should always be disposed of properly and NEVER put out with your household trash.  These items should be shredded or burned.  In addition, limiting the amount of junk mail you receive by “opting out” of mail distribution lists can vastly decrease your risk.  Opt out by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT.

• Never follow links to bank accounts, credit accounts, PayPal accounts, etc from an email.  Again, “phishing” emails may appear as a completely legitimate email from your bank or credit card company, warning you of unauthorized transactions or other alarming information.  ALWAYS access your bank and credit accounts by entering their web address into your web browser, NEVER through a link.  Reputable companies will not contact you via email about such important matters.

• Don’t respond to emails offering money in exchange for “helping” an individual transfer money into the country.  These are always scams and have proven to be very dangerous.

• Password protect your computer and your wireless internet. Use firewalls and virus protection software.

• Never give personal information to telephone solicitors or door to door solicitors.  Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you placed the call yourself.

• Lock your car.  Identity theft via “glove compartment” information is on the rise.  Keeping your car locked can ensure you are not an easy target.

• Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.  Purge expired credit cards, insurance cards, and ID’s regularly.  Keep these items at home in a safe place.

If you do not have a locking mailbox, do not mail payments using your mailbox.  Always take the mail directly to the post office.

What do I do if think I’ve been targeted?

Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT or

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Reverse Mortgage FAQ – Part 3

Reverse Mortgage Seattle Lynnwood Edmonds Shoreline Washington


This is the third in a three part series of frequently asked questions about Reverse Mortgage.  You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  If you have questions that are not currently listed, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Will I Lose My Government Assistance If I Get a Reverse Mortgage?

Because a reverse mortgage is not considered income, it does not affect regular Social Security or Medicare benefits. However, if you are on Medicaid or other public assistance, any reverse mortgage proceeds that you receive may affect your eligibility. Reverse mortgage funds that you retain would be considered an asset, just as other bank funds.  Working with a reputable reverse mortgage lender will ensure you are properly reporting income and not caught by surprise.

What is a Reverse Mortgage Appraisal?

A home appraisal by an FHA approved appraiser is required for every reverse mortgage loan.  Once your reverse mortgage lender has received your application, you will be contacted by an appraiser to schedule a time to conduct the appraisal.  The appraisal will consist of an inspection, where the appraiser will walk through your home and possibly take photographs.  Once the walk-through is completed, research will be done to determine your home’s worth based on various factors, including comparable home sales in your area.  After the research has been done, an appraisal report will be generated which will include all of the factors that went into determining your home’s appraised value.

How Do I Spot a Reverse Mortgage Scam?

Unfortunately con-artists often prey on the elderly through reverse mortgage scams, but there are several ways to spot such activity.  Be skeptical of lenders who solicit through means such as television, door-to-door, churches and community centers, direct mailers, or other extensive advertisements.  Asking for large amounts of money up front is a very clear indicator.  Anything required beyond a routine appraisal deposit of approx $300 is cause for concern.  Steer clear of reverse mortgages that are marketed as “Foreclosure Assistance”.  A high pressure salesperson is a red-flag, as it is important to clearly understand what you are signing and to have any questions thoroughly answered.  Working with a reputable lender is critical when making such a major decision as obtaining a reverse mortgage.  Learn more about reverse mortgage scams here.

What Happens if the Borrower Moves Into a Senior Care Facility or Something Similar?

A reverse mortgage becomes due and payable when the last borrower moves out of his or her home permanently. For instance, moving into a senior care facility, selling the home, passing away or moving in with the children.  In the case of a married couple, if both spouses are on the loan as long as one spouse remains in the home the loan will continue without hiccup.

What Happens to a Reverse Mortgage After the Owners Pass?

When the homeowner passes – or the last spouse in the case of a married couple – the home will transfer into the estate or a specific person according  to the wishes expressed in the homeowner’s will.  At this time there are three main options: pay off the remainder of the loan, obtain a conventional loan, or sell the home.  For more extensive details about each of these options, read this article on my blog.

Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington.  Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.

Beware of Reverse Mortgage Scams

Like all businesses, there are representatives that are doing an honest job offering themselves for service and help. And unfortunately there are others seeking their own personal advantage. This applies even to reverse mortgages, as the elderly are often prey to scams. Do not be naive and assume that because the program is there to help, that all the offers are true to the reason the program exists.

Having a team on your side of a reputable reverse mortgage specialist and a third party counselor, in addition to friends and family, is a big step to ensuring you are doing everything right.

There are some easy red flags to look for.  Here are five giveaways of a reverse mortgage scam:

They ask for money up front

Once you submit an application to a reverse mortgage lender it is fairly standard for them to ask for a deposit for the appraisal. This is usually about $300.00 dollars, but can vary slightly. If you are asked to give anything else, stop. Very little money is required before the closing of the loan. Seek advice before moving forward and do not let yourself be pressured.

They will offer foreclosure assistance

Credible reverse mortgage lenders will not seek out distressed homeowners to offer foreclosure help.

They will show unethical marketing practices

There is a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that holds all reverse mortgage lenders accountable. If a lender is using public means such as community centers, churches, television or even door to door marketing to pique your interest- beware!

They employ high pressure sales tactics

If you feel uncomfortable or pressured when meeting with your lender, stop. If your questions are not being addressed or the lender is pushing you to a quick decision, you are still in the driver’s seat and it is time to stop and reevaluate working with them.

They lack credibility and reputation

If your reverse mortgage specialist and lender is credible, they will have professional associates such as the Better Business Bureau, the FDIC and the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association behind them.

Reverse mortgage is an individualized, specialized loan for those 62 and older that allows seniors to tap into the equity of their home while living mortgage and loan payment free.  The funds can be accessed via a lump sum, line of credit, monthly installments, or even to purchase a home. If you are planning ahead let your specialist guide you creatively to suit your needs and desires.