Mortgage help scams still a big problem

In every crisis, there are con artists trying to capitalize on the misery of others.

That’s the way it has been during the foreclosure crisis that followed the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007. The number of people scammed by these bottom-feeders has been only exceeded by the efforts launched to stop the scams.

The latest was unveiled by three federal agencies, including the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The advice, which we’ve seen before, is worth repeating.

Why? Because from what I’ve seen and my readers have told me, there appears to be little recourse after the fact. The scammer may be caught and go to jail, but there is little chance he or she still has your money. A lot of the people return to their scamming ways after they are released anyway, so don’t fall into the trap, no matter how scared you are.

First, you can apply for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, on your own or with help from a HUD-approved housing counselor. FREE. Go to

Only your mortgage servicer can grant a loan modification. No third-party can do so.

Beware of anyone seeking to charge you in advance for mortgage modification services. In most cases, charging fees in advance for a mortgage modification is illegal.

In addition, paying a third party to assist you with the application won’t guarantee that you’ll receive your modification. Beware of firms that say they are experts or brag about their success getting modifications.

Call the HOPE hotline 1-888-995-4673 or to check on anyone claiming a connection to HAMP or using a government seal or logo in correspondence with you.

Beware of those offering money-back guarantees, who tell you to stop making payments or not to contact your mortgage servicer.