A reader: I am in a foreclosure process on my house. I lost my job and was not able to make several house payments. I found a company that was supposed to help me, but all they did was take my money and I am still being foreclosed on. Is there anything I can do?
Action Line: I’m not sure where you are in the foreclosure process and hope you can get it resolved. First of all, contact your BBB to find out what you can about the company. You may file a complaint with BBB at bbb.org and with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov. We have seen lots these cases in the past and know that lots of Americans have been forced into bankruptcy and even lost their homes from these scams.
Call the Homeowners Help Hotline, 1 (888) 995-HOPE. You can get free personalized advice from housing counseling agencies. These agencies are certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can also go online to www.hopenow.com.
Also, for free information on plans to help financially strapped homeowners in mortgage difficulty, visit www.makinghomeaffordable.gov.
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Here are some tips from FTC to help you identify a scam:
• “Guaranteed” fixes. No one can guarantee they can stop a foreclosure.
• Fees up-front. Don’t pay in advance anyone who promises to stop a foreclosure or guarantees you a new mortgage.
• Stop paying, stop talking. Avoid anyone who tells you not to pay your lender, or not to talk with an attorney or your lender.
• Pressure to sign. Is someone rushing you, or asking you to sign over the title or deed of your house to someone other than your lender? Those are red flags.
• Promises to find mistakes in your loan documents that will force your lender to cancel or modify your loan. Canceling your loan won’t allow you to stay in your home, and in most cases, lenders are not required to modify your loan to make it more affordable simply because of mistakes in your loan documents.
Don’t do business with anyone who offers an “easy out” of foreclosure. These kinds of claims are the tell-tale signs of a foreclosure rip-off.
Don’t pay any business, organization, or person who promises to prevent foreclosure or guarantees you a new mortgage. So-called “foreclosure rescue companies” claim they can help save your home, but they can’t really do that. They’re just out to make a fast buck. Some may ask for hefty fees in advance – and then, once you pay, stop returning your calls. Others may string you along before disclosing their charges. Cut off all dealings if someone insists on a fee in advance.
Some scammers offer to handle financial arrangements for you, and then pocket your payment instead of sending it to your mortgage company. Send your mortgage payments ONLY to your mortgage company. Scammers may advise you not to communicate with your mortgage company. That’s a bad idea because you may not find out until it’s too late that the scammer has done nothing for you, that your mortgage company was willing to modify your loan, or even that foreclosure is just days away!