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I received the following spam email (I redacted identifying information to avoid boosting their Google results):

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to help other companies increase their income. There is NO cost to you or your company. We simply do something you don't and pay you $500 in the process.

We are designed to accept donations of worthless real estate, timeshares, and mortgages that can't be sold, have no value, and are generally declined when offered. We assume all liability and work processing and pay you $500 at the end. While waiting for document recording all funds are held by an escrow company to protect you, the client and us.

If you wish to check us out go to the IRS website, https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/ and enter our EIN: [redacted].

For details please go to [redacted]. You can read our details at [redacted].

To stop receiving these emails simply reply to this message with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

[redacted]

Obviously, this isn't legitimate, or they wouldn't be advertising it via spam. Also, paying for assets that have negative value isn't compatible with staying afloat. So what's really going on here? What would happen if someone accepted this scammer's offer?

  • 1
    How does one "donate" a mortgage? I think the scam targets people who can't afford their mortgage, and convincing them that $500 without having to worry about foreclosure is a good idea. They're just buying for far, far less than market value. – chepner Apr 30 at 0:41
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    @chepner: I think it's targetted to the lender, whose ownership of the mortgage is theoretically an asset. One can also imagine that with fraudulent valuations, both donor and non-profit win... the non-profit gets property worth a couple thousand, and sends the donor a receipt showing a value of several hundred thousand, which is used to claim a tax deduction. Of course, the deduction will eventually be rejected, leaving the donor out the difference between the fair market value and the $500. – Ben Voigt Apr 30 at 1:19
  • This is not strictly fraudulent or a scam. We need to know more details about the organization you got a letter from. For example - an organization I know of is rollingjubilee.org . What they do is to buy up bad debt, then they fully discharge that debt without charging the borrower. There is legitimate criticism of this strategy (blog.p2pfoundation.net/…) however it is not fraudulent. – Freiheit May 6 at 14:55
  • @Freiheit Here's their URL, rot13 encoded: uggc://ivpgvzferyvrsvap.pbz/ – Joseph Sible May 6 at 19:12
  • I think for the purposes of our discussion here we can stop being cagey. victimsreliefinc.com is the company in question. Their model doesn't seem to fit the jubilee model I posted earlier. – Freiheit May 6 at 21:48
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I think the game here is expressed in this paragraph from the website:

A charity is like any other business, it has to operate on a cash basis. If it accepts a donation of a non-cash item, it must convert it to cash by selling it to derive income to pay their bills. Many people think their donation automatically has value to a charity. It is important that you understand up front that we do not have a magic ability to convert minimal value properties into cash so the donation is of no value to us. Yet a donation can create a very real cash amount for the donor regardless of it's lack of value on the open market. We do charge for our services but we try to make it a reasonable cost based on the cash amount the donor can gain from the donation credit.

If I follow this correctly the donor gives the charity:

  • title to an undesirable asset, typically real estate or a time share
  • a donation for the charities time and expenses to liquidate that property

The charity then holds and liquidates the asset. The charity keeps both the donation and the asset. The donor then is able to write off the sum of the donation and asset as the entire donation.

Who would want to use us? Consider these situations.

  • Vacant lots in depressed areas.
  • Damaged structure not worth repairing, especially after receiving insurance proceeds.
  • Squatter occupied property that is to much trouble to try to recover and get fixed back up.
  • Legally restricted property such as zoning, non-access locked, environmental disasters, and remainders of eminent domain seizures.
  • Lease locked property not returning a profit.
  • Any property for any reason that can't be sold for more than $5,000 quickly and easily.

The charitable aspect here seems to be that the charity helps homeowners who are not otherwise real estate gurus dispose of difficult properties. This is odd in that the donor to the charity is also the recipient of the charitable giving.

  • I'm not sure I've got this right or not. For those of you new to SE, please hit that edit button and make corrections or post your own answer if I got it wrong! – Freiheit May 6 at 21:55

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