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Paul Kiesel
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Salon: Why Loan Modification Scams are Booming

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FYI: Here’s a link to a blog I wrote a year ago that portends what’s being described in the article below.

From Salon.com:

During the go-go years of the real estate bubble, shady mortgage brokers thrived, thanks to the sluggish response of regulators and law enforcement agencies. Amid the ruins of the crash, there’s a new boom attracting unscrupulous mortgage professionals: "Foreclosure rescue" companies promising — in exchange for a large upfront fee — to persuade lenders to modify desperate homeowners’ mortgages. And authorities are again finding themselves ill-equipped to deal with the deluge.

In a giant game of whack-a-mole, law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country have filed suit against 150 such companies, but they continue to proliferate, and the number of consumer complaints continues to rise.

"This is a very big scam," says California Attorney General Jerry Brown. "They’re all over the place, and as soon as you get one, they migrate to somewhere else."

The case of one particularly aggressive firm, 21st Century Legal Services, shows just how ineffective authorities’ moves against the companies often are.

Four states have sued 21st Century, and at least three more have open investigations. Over 150 consumers from more than 30 states have filed complaints against 21st Century with the Better Business Bureau. No active firm has more complaints.

Yet the company forges on. Operating under a new name, Fidelity National Legal Services, it continues to solicit consumers nationwide, even in states where authorities have won court injunctions.

Homeowners do not have to pay a company to negotiate on their behalf: They can always contact their mortgage servicer directly for a loan modification, at no cost. But consumers often find the process frustrating. For those who want guidance, nonprofit housing counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development will help for free.

Consumers should especially be wary of companies charging upfront fees or touting guarantees. The Illinois attorney general says that her office has yet to see any such company operate within the boundaries of state law.

Click here for the rest of the article.