Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer: The Spam & Scams After Buying
In case you missed it, I recently kicked off a new “Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer” series here on Fioney. Although I will cover major topics and share my own experience with them throughout this series, I also want to highlight some aspects of buying a home that I had never heard of before and was shocked to discover.
That’s exactly what I have on tap today as I want to discuss the sheer amount of spam and scams you face after purchasing a home.
My Experience with Spam and Solicitations as a Homebuyer
Our first spam letters
When we signed our closing papers, our mortgage broker and the title company employee warned us that we’d likely be getting a lot of junk mail that might look official and important but wasn’t. They even advised that, unless it had our mortgage company’s actual logo on it, it was probably nothing. This was the first time I’d ever even considered such a thing — but, boy, were they right.
Some of the very first mail we got to our new house was, well, crap. But, as promised, there were elements of it that seemed to imply it was legitimate. For example, most of these letters and notices named our mortgage company on them. Furthermore, they even knew exactly how much our loan was for. These elements somehow made the typical scare tactics like slapping “Final Notice” on the envelope work a bit better.
How it works
Alas, the truth is that this information is public record. Therefore, it’s not hard for these companies to obtain and target you effectively. Plus, since this is probably their whole business, I have to imagine that these are largely templates that they just plug the details into.
What are they?
So what are these solicitations? Well, to be honest, I’m not 100% sure since I didn’t follow up with any. Two of the letters (seen in my featured image above) simply say they’re from a “Servicing Center” with no real info. Meanwhile, some others suggest that it’s a type of life insurance. What does life insurance have to do with a house? I suppose the idea is that, if you were to pass away, the policy would help your surviving family pay off your mortgage. That’s actually not a bad idea — but I’m certainly not going to buy a policy from a company that takes this tactic.
What to watch for
Interestingly, for as much effort as these companies go through to make it look as though these letters are coming from a company you already work with, there are some clear signs that they’re not. Presumably to stay on the right side of the law, there are some disclosures that can be found on some of the notices I received.
Looking at the fine print on one, it flatly states, “Loan information is obtained from public records and is not provided by any lender.” Similarly, another one notes, “Not affiliated with or sponsored by any bank or lending institution.”
By the time I read these statements, I was already 90-something percent sure these were spam, but the confirmation was definitely nice to have. Of course, there’s also no guarantee that every piece of mail or other solicitation you receive will be as law-abiding. Thus, it’s important to be vigilant even if these disclosures aren’t present.
But what if it’s real?
What’s perhaps even worse is that the deluge of spam may cause you to ignore legitimate updates. For example, when my wife handed me a piece of mail we received at the house, I was fully prepared to just throw it away. Instead, it turns out that it was a real letter from Freddie Mac informing us that they’d purchased our mortgage (a story for another time).
In a similar vein, my wife got a text message in regards to someone surveying our home allegedly at the request of our insurer. While some parts seemed to add up, the whole thing still seemed a bit scammy. Plus, when we logged into our insurance policy, there weren’t any notices about such a thing. Luckily, we were able to talk to our insurance broker and discover that, indeed, this was legit. Had we ignored these messages as we initially intended to, we may have ended up getting dropped by our insurer — which would not have been good.
Although many of us are likely familiar with robocalls regarding car or home warranties (that you probably don’t have), I had no idea just how much spam I would receive upon closing on a home. The good news is that, with the assistance of a heads-up from our title company and mortgage broker, we found it fairly easy to spot these unwelcome solicitations for what they really were. On the other hand, our vigilance also nearly led us to write off legitimate correspondence as we had grown predisposed to assuming everything was junk!
The bottom line is that, as a new homeowner (and especially a first-time one), you can expect to receive a mix of both important and thoroughly unimportant mail. Because of this, I’d recommend taking a closer look at everything you receive and determining which is which. In the event you can’t figure it out on your own, Googling can go a long way — and, if you have an agent, mortgage broker, or other professionals you’re working with, they may be able to advise you as well.