Mortgage scams that target those avoiding foreclosure

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A warning from the Federal government as it tries to crack down on companies scamming homeowners looking for help.

The Federal Trade Commission says these unscrupulous companies are trying to pass themselves off as government agency and are targeting folks looking to avoid foreclosure.

A company called the nation's home affordable mortgage program has sent out official-looking letters to distressed homeowners claiming it can lower their payments.

They'll do it for $3,000, payable to their Capitol Hill office in Washington, DC.  Problem is, that office is just a rented mailbox in this UPS store.

"If the company is asking for an advance fee, if it's guaranteeing you its going to be able to modify your loan, and if its telling you don't pay them, pay us... it's not likely to be a legitimate enterprise," said Reilly Dolan of the FTC.

The FTC has filed a formal complaint against the company for misrepresenting itself as a government agency.

Nation's housing and two others also face charges of false claims.

In all, the FTC has filed 22 cases against foreclosure rescue and home modification companies since the housing crisis began.

If you need help avoiding foreclosure, your best bet is to look for it yourself. Use government agencies you know... or companies in good standing with the better business bureau.

* * *

Our next 12 On Your Side Alert also focuses on homeownership.

A Hopewell woman says she and her husband turned to a local mortgage broker to handle the closing on they were buying.

And almost from the beginning, it was one big headache after another, from unreturned calls to ever-changing costs.

Q: "Had you signed anything at the beginning of the process that said we're gonna lock in these numbers?"

A: "He gave us the paper, but he neglected to put a date and sign it."

How this woman finally got through the process and what you need to know to make sure you don't end up in the same boat. A special 12 On Your side Alert, Monday night at 11.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.