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Every week, join Sydney Waters as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: New Homeowner Scams

Photo of a little girl trying to help mom who is working on a computer at their dining table
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images
Photo of a little girl trying to help mom who is working on a computer at their dining table

Buying a new home is a huge milestone – and it’s also a matter of public record, meaning you’re probably in for some junk mail.

It’s common to receive a wave of junk mail after closing on a new home. Because some information about your home purchase is public record, scammers can send you official-looking mail that includes details like your loan amount and the name of your lender.

Scammers are pros at making junk mail look official, making it difficult to tell what’s spam and what’s real, important mail. Their goal is to trick you into providing personal or financial information, or to get you to give them money for services you don’t need.

A good rule of thumb is to only engage with mail that you can confirm is from your mortgage or home warranty company. If you’re not sure, call your company directly.

Some common examples of junk mail targeting new homeowners:

· Mortgage insurance offers. Mortgage insurance is legitimate protection, but some unscrupulous companies will try to pose as your lender to sell it to you.

· Mortgage scams. Scammers may claim that there is an urgent issue or missed payment on your mortgage, asking you to call them immediately. You might receive junk mail that looks like a mortgage bill.

· Home warranty schemes. Junk mail may claim that you are eligible for a home warranty or that you must act now to prevent your current warranty from expiring.

· Title/deed scams. You may receive offers for “records recovery services” that send you a copy of your home deed. Remember that you should have already received copies of your deed and other important documents at closing.

How to handle junk mail as a new homeowner:

Look closely at unexpected mail. Be cautious if a letter claims there's an issue you haven’t already discussed with your lender.

Double check with your lender or home warranty company. If you’re not sure if a piece of mail is legitimate, call your lender or home warranty company directly to ask if they sent it. Call their number directly from their website or your address book – don't call numbers on any piece of mail that seems off.

Look for red flags:

o Urgent or emotional language. Scammers use phrasing like “final notice,” “return promptly,” or “call immediately” to try to convince you that there’s a time-sensitive problem. This is an attempt to catch you off guard and take advantage of your emotions.

o Typos or grammatical errors. You should also look for poor graphic design or logos that don’t look quite right.

o Limited, generic or inaccurate information. Vague wording like “call us about an important issue” likely indicates your mortgage or warranty company isn’t involved. An incorrect closing date, address or loan amount could also be cause for concern. On the flip side, remember that accurate information doesn’t necessarily mean the mail is real, since some details of your purchase are public record.

o Disclaimers in tiny print. Scam mail often has fine print stating that the mail is not affiliated with your financial institution or that the information is from public records.

Keep track of your documents. Keeping all documentation from your home purchase and mortgage in one place can make it easier to check potential scam mail against your records.

Reduce your junk mail. Visit DMAchoice to manage the type and amount of unsolicited mail you receive.

Sydney Waters is the new Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau and responsible for outreach efforts in Southern Illinois and Eastern and Southwest Missouri.