What is equity skimming?

What is equity skimming?

What is equity skimming?



Equity skimming is a fraudulent practice that involves the illegal transfer of property ownership and the subsequent exploitation of the property’s equity. This deceptive scheme often targets vulnerable homeowners who are facing financial difficulties or are at risk of foreclosure. In equity skimming, the fraudster takes advantage of the homeowner’s equity by diverting rental income or selling the property without paying off the existing mortgage, leaving the homeowner in a dire financial situation. In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of equity skimming, its methods, and the legal consequences associated with this fraudulent activity.

Understanding Equity Skimming

Equity skimming typically occurs when an individual or group fraudulently acquires ownership of a property, either through a forged sale or by assuming the homeowner’s identity. Once they gain control of the property, the fraudsters exploit the equity by collecting rental income or selling the property without assuming responsibility for the existing mortgage. This leaves the original homeowner responsible for the mortgage payments and potentially facing foreclosure.

One common method of equity skimming is through the use of straw buyers. Straw buyers are individuals who are recruited by fraudsters to purchase a property on their behalf. The fraudsters may use false documentation or misrepresent the buyer’s financial situation to secure a mortgage. Once the property is purchased, the fraudsters take control of the property and divert the rental income while leaving the straw buyer responsible for the mortgage payments.

Another method of equity skimming involves targeting homeowners who are facing foreclosure. Fraudsters may approach distressed homeowners and offer to help them avoid foreclosure by taking over the property and assuming responsibility for the mortgage payments. However, instead of fulfilling their promises, the fraudsters collect rent from the property without paying the mortgage, leading to the homeowner’s eventual eviction and foreclosure.

Equity skimming is a serious crime that is punishable under both federal and state laws. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) actively pursue cases of equity skimming. Perpetrators of equity skimming can face criminal charges, including fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy.

The legal consequences for equity skimming can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the fraud. Convicted individuals may face fines, imprisonment, restitution orders, and the requirement to forfeit any proceeds obtained through the fraudulent activity. Additionally, civil lawsuits may be filed by the victims seeking compensation for their financial losses and damages.

Protecting Yourself from Equity Skimming

To protect yourself from falling victim to equity skimming, it is essential to remain vigilant and take proactive measures. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Be cautious when dealing with individuals or organizations offering to help you avoid foreclosure. Research their credentials, check for reviews, and consult with reputable professionals, such as real estate attorneys or housing counselors.

2. Avoid signing any documents without fully understanding their contents. If you are unsure, seek legal advice before proceeding.

3. Regularly monitor your credit report and bank statements for any suspicious activity. Report any discrepancies or unauthorized transactions immediately.

4. Stay informed about your rights as a homeowner, particularly regarding foreclosure procedures and the transfer of property ownership.

5. If you suspect that you have been a victim of equity skimming, report the incident to your local law enforcement agency, as well as the FTC and HUD.


Equity skimming is a fraudulent practice that exploits homeowners facing financial difficulties or foreclosure. Fraudsters take advantage of the equity in a property by diverting rental income or selling the property without paying off the existing mortgage. This leaves the original homeowner responsible for the mortgage payments and at risk of foreclosure. Understanding the methods used in equity skimming and taking proactive measures to protect oneself can help mitigate the risk of falling victim to this fraudulent activity.


– Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov
– Department of Housing and Urban Development: www.hud.gov
– Legal Information Institute: www.law.cornell.edu