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Archive for Thursday, July 23, 2009

Be wary of fake mortgage ‘rescues’

July 23, 2009

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State and federal law enforcement officials across the country are teaming up to stop despondent homeowners from needlessly shelling out thousands of dollars in an attempt to save their homes from foreclosure.

The Federal Trade Commission announced recently it is leading “Operation Loan Lies,” a coordinated effort involving 25 federal and state agencies to shut down firms that are deceptively marketing foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification services.

These companies often do little or nothing to help homeowners renegotiate their mortgages or stop foreclosures, the FTC and officials say.

The FTC said it has brought 14 cases since April, while 23 state attorneys general and other agencies participating in this operation have taken action against 178 companies.

Even with these actions, officials have a tough mission in trying to prevent these schemes. There are just too many charlatan companies and too many hopeless homeowners.

Naturally, as vultures do when they spot an ailing creature, scam artists have been circling and feeding off people’s desperation to keep their homes.

Companies advertising on radio and television promise to “rescue” homeowners from foreclosures, for a fee. And those fees are hefty — ranging from just under $1,000 to more than $5,000.

Since the mortgage crisis began, the FTC, state attorneys general, housing authorities and housing nonprofit groups have been pleading homeowners to steer clear of for-profit loan-modification companies.

The problem is that many homeowners, when faced with foreclosure, panic and think that paying a for-profit company will get them better and faster results. Unfortunately that typically doesn’t happen.

People can seek help from a nonprofit housing counselor by calling (888) 995-HOPE (4673) or online at www.hopenow.com.

The FTC has released a short video, “Real People. Real Stories,” which features homeowners who were scam targets. Watch at FTC.gov/yourhome and youtube.com /FTCVideos.

Even if you can’t get results right away by going though the resources I’ve listed, don’t shell out money you can’t afford to lose. The free help is still the better option.

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