Gas thieves Also:
can drain you dry
By David Horowitz
GASOLINE IS EARNING a new nickname: “liquid
gold.” That’s not too much of an exaggeration, considering that thieves nationwide have found creative
ways to steal the precious commodity.
We’ve all heard of siphoning gas from a passenger car’s or truck’s gas tank. Although “check balls,”
which prevent spills in a rollover accident, make
siphoning more difficult, thieves have overcome
this. A growing number of reports of tank and line
puncturing are starting to trickle in to police departments and repair shops across the country. Pickup
trucks and sport utility vehicles are becoming easy
pickings for the thieves who puncture the tanks and
use a container to catch the fuel. Plastic tanks are
typically targets, because there is less chance of
sparking a fire and they are easier to drill into.
The damage is costly: The cost of replacing a
metal tank on passenger vehicles is $300 to $400,
and the plastic tanks common on newer vehicles
cost at least $500. But after investigating a rash of
drill-siphoning reports, Denver Police Detective
John White sees bigger problems: “What made this
particular method so dangerous and concerning for
us was the way in which they were doing it—using
cordless drills to puncture holes in these tanks. The
heat … generated [by the friction] could have easily
sparked a fire. It just made for a dangerous situation
for the suspects and the community.”
If you want to keep your car safe from siphoning, AAA spokesperson Catherine Rossi advises
keeping your car visible as a deterrent to criminals
who’d rather not be caught in the act.
MY HUSBAND AND I bought
a second house to invest for
our kids’ future, but it’s
backfiring. In three years,
we have lost at least
$500,000. It’s been vacant
several times as we’ve tried
to sell it, then tried to rent it.
Finally it’s rented for $2,100
per month, but the mortgage, insurance and maintenance cost about $4,000
per month. The loan is for
$587,000, but today’s value
is barely $499,000. We both
work hard and make enough
to pay for both houses, but
we pay interest only and I
don’t know how long we can
keep going like this with the
value declining. Should we
foreclose? Are there any better options?
The best defense against the foreclosure pirates
is knowledge. Read about the various types of scams
that can be used to deprive you of your home, such
as equity skimming, equity stripping, phony counseling agencies, lender scams, phony loan transactions, loan flipping, and Internet and phone scams.
AARP lawyer James T. Sugarman says that
“there are dozens of ways to save your house from
foreclosure,” but that those in desperate times too
frequently jump at bad deals. His rule of thumb is
“Never do business with anyone who comes to
your door or calls you out of the blue or sends you
a flier. It’s so bad out there that you can’t afford to
trust a stranger.”
If you think yo u have been
scammed, contact the U.S.
Department of Housing and
Urban Development’s (HUD;
www.hud.gov) National Servicing
Center at 1-800-225-5342. The
center refers callers alleging scams to local authorities and HUD-approved
agencies, as well as the
AM Y CAN TRELL
Better Business Bureau.
If you are more
than 60 years old
and living on a low
AARP’s legal counsel
for the elderly (www.
For guidance, tips
and support, contact
Where’s the Justice
For All), an anti-fraud
organization, at www.
Homeowners falling behind on their payments
are also falling victim to foreclosure predators. Once
a property owner has missed two or three monthly
payments, a lender routinely files a public notice of
default with the county recorder’s office.
This is the road to formal foreclosure. Scam artists simply have to read the notices to find possible
victims. They then descend on the homeowners
with an outstretched hand and offer to help, and
trick them into signing over title to their homes.
Usually, the rescuer is a stranger, who contacts them
with a “great offer” to save their home. They say that
they or another third party can temporarily “share”
or assume title to the homeowner’s property.
That way, with someone else’s name on the title,
struggling homeowners can refinance and improve
their credit. And then once their credit is repaired,
they would get sole title back. But in reality, this is
when the second round of trouble starts. Victims
find that their name has been removed from the
title with no hope of return.
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
check the radio page at
© 2008 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
Today, more than 1 mil-
lion borrowers with sub-
prime or interest-only
loans are in similar sit-
uations: falling behind
on their payments or,
like yourself, “upside
down,” with the
home’s value less
than the loan. But
the consequences of
the benefits, consider-
ing your good credit history
and family income. Contact
the National Foundation for
Credit Counseling at
1-800-388-2227. They now
offer the Housing Crisis
Resource Center with
resources in lending issues.
You might also consider a
“short sale,” which would
mean taking a loss on your
investment but avoiding the
negative impact of foreclosing
on either property.
Do you have a question for David?
Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond
to your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco
members receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest
interest to Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the
contributor and will be posted on