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Helping Homeowners Understand Fraud During COVID-19

This story originally appeared in the July edition of MReport.

Danielle McCoy, VP and Fair Lending Officer, Fannie Mae, spoke on what the GSE is doing to ensure borrowers are not scammed during times of financial hardship.

Danielle McCoy is Fannie Mae’s VP and Fair Lending Officer. She reports to the EVP, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary, and leads Fannie Mae’s fair lending program. McCoy is responsible for assessing and monitoring fair lending risk on an enterprise-wide level. She facilitates the company’s compliance with fair lending laws and regulations and promotes fair and responsible lending throughout various aspects of Fannie Mae’s business practices, including its underwriting standards and pricing policies. McCoy spoke with MReport about how Fannie Mae is helping homeowners impacted by COVID-19 understand all of the options they have available to them and protect them from fraud.


What are some of the challenges in ensuring lending operations continue effectively and fairly during this socially distant environment?

Like most others in the industry, Fannie Mae has adapted to a remote work environment. Fannie Mae has implemented business resiliency plans, technology systems, and a lot of innovation that have allowed us to continue our critical function of supporting the mortgage market.  What’s been most concerning though, is the effect of COVID-19 on homeowners and renters. Based on our monthly surveys of consumers, we found that many mortgage holders and renters say that their financial health has been very or extremely negatively impacted by COVID-19.

They’ve also reported a loss or decrease in income because of COVID-19. This is a key reason we’re focused on making sure that people with these concerns are aware of their options, which are featured on our website KnowYourOptions.com.


What is Fannie Mae doing to ensure homeowners are protected from fraud during this pandemic?

We’re working through our Here to Help education effort to make sure people know about the many options available to them. As I mentioned, KnowYOptions.com is a great resource and there’s a page on KnowYourOptions.com dedicated to fraud prevention.

On that site, you’ll see that we give people useful tips, notably that we will never contact you to ask for your personal information, to loan you money, or to modify your mortgage. What is also important to know is that if someone is rushing you to make a decision, that might be a sign of a scam. If someone calls you and says, “Oh, if you pay me a lot of money, I can provide counseling” that might be a sign of a scam. There are [Department of Housing and Urban Development]-approved counseling agencies with services that are provided at no cost. We provide that type of information so that homeowners and renters are aware of their options and know-how to be aware of scams.


How can the housing industry and the federal government assist homeowners once they exit forbearance plans?

The key to remember is that borrowers with federally backed loans are not required to repay their missed payments all at once. This is a great opportunity, again, to point to KnowYourOptions.com because it provides a lot of information to borrowers so that they’re aware of their alternatives. Additionally, if the loan is owned by Fannie Mae, we have housing counselors that are available to review options with the homeowner so they can decide what [solutions] may best fit their circumstance so they’re better informed before they call their servicer.


What can the industry do to make sure homeowners are aware and understand their options?

We launched Here to Help because we’re committed to helping those impacted by COVID-19 and we want to ensure people understand all of their available options. KnowYourOptions.com has a lot of information. What I love the most is that it’s broken down in different sections: there are fact sheets and there are videos. As I mentioned, there is counseling available and there are [contact] numbers for those counselors. You will also find loan lookup tools. Providing this information in different mediums and in different ways for people to educate themselves is one way we can really help homeowners. What we’re doing through Know Your Options is helping to close the [information] gap. We are working closely with our regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to share available resources with homeowners and renters nationwide. The whole goal, for the industry, is to let Americans know that Fannie Mae and others in the industry stand ready to help consumers find the information that they need during these very uncertain times. Consumers should start by visiting KnowYourOptions.com and empowering themselves with reliable, easy-to-understand information about their options.

For more information, visit Knowyouroptions.com. 


About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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