In tough financial times it seems plenty of companies are claiming they can save Utah homeowners from foreclosure. There are a growing number of advertisements offering home loan modifications - or foreclosure rescue plans- for up-front fees. In Salt Lake City, FBI Special Agents who specialize in mortgage fraud investigations are teaming up with investigators at the Utah Department of Commerce to issue the following warnings.
The FBI and the Utah Department of Commerce are receiving complaints from homeowners alleging they paid up-front fees for home loan modifications, but companies are not delivering on promises.
Be cautious of a company's pitch for fees; many lenders offer free help for homeowners seeking home loan modifications.
Home loan modification programs can be a way for homeowners who face foreclosure to keep their homes. When done properly, a homeowner who qualifies may be able to lower his or her monthly payments. Many lenders offer this service for free and there are a number of HUD-approved counselors who can answer homeowners' questions about the process.
However, FBI mortgage fraud investigators and state investigators have noted a steady number of complaints about various companies that claim to offer home loan modifications.
Homeowners say they've paid as much as two-thousand dollars in fees, filled out paperwork and thought the companies would modify their loans. But consumers report that some companies aren't following through with the process, while other companies claim the homeowner didn't qualify for a loan modification. Unfortunately, by the time consumers figure out they've been scammed they've lost the fees and are closer to losing their homes.
Such cases are a growing concern to FBI Special Agent in Charge, Timothy J. Fuhrman and Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce, Francine Giani.
"Foreclosure rescue scams are possibly the most egregious of all consumer scams," said Giani. "Here homeowners lose twice. They lose their home and their money to fraudsters who prey on their desperate situation with nothing to offer but empty promises."
The FBI special agent also told people to be wary up front, because afterward is usually too late to do anything about the situation.
"We want to warn homeowners before it's too late," said Fuhrman. "Usually, by the time someone reports a problem, they've been victimized. We want consumers to know how to spot a scheme and where they can get the legitimate help they need if times get tough."
Consumers can file complaints about such practices in three places.
FBI Salt Lake City Field Office at (801) 579-1400 or http://saltlakecity.fbi.gov/
The Utah Division of Real Estate: As part of the Utah Department of Commerce, the Division of Real Estate provides public protection through education and licensure of real estate brokers, sales agents, appraisers, and regulation of residential mortgage lenders. Consumers can report real estate fraudsters to the Division of Real Estate at 801-530-6747 or by filing a complaint form: http://www.realestate.utah.gov/complaint_form.pdf. Link to the Division's main Web site at www.realestate.utah.gov.