Beware of loan-modification scams

Thousands of homeowners who think they're getting loan modification help are actually being manipulated into giving away hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Federal investigators just shut down more phony mortgage relief operations.

But beware: dozens more illegal companies are still in business, advertising on TV, radio and on the Internet. They'll call you on the phone. They'll contact you by mail. But take the bait, and you can kiss your mone - and maybe even your home - goodbye.

The Federal Trade Commission just filed three separate lawsuits against three operations investigators say preyed on homeowners, by charging as much as $10,000 upfront for help lower mortgage payments. The FTC says the three operations conducted business under 20 different names, offering mortgage and credit assistance.

"They'll do everything to get your guard down," said regional assistant director Dave Horn. "These guys would say, 'We've got a government grant.' So they imply that they have some connection to the government. They make you think that they've got some special in with your lender, or that they're actually representing your lender, and those things are just lies. They're just lies. There are many millions of people who are paying money to these scam artists and losing it."

The feds have exposed more than 40 cases of mortgage relief fraud since the housing crisis exploded four years ago. Investigators say the companies named in the three latest cases violated virtually every provision of the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule (MARS Rule), which, among other things, prohibits companies from collecting up front fees for loan modification services.

The FTC says phony mortgage relief companies take the money, but deliver little or no help, and often drive homeowners deeper in debt. Many people end up losing their home.

Next time you get a chance, go to a search engine and type in these three words: mortgage assistance scams. You'll find hundreds of warnings about loan modification ripoffs, plus all the warning signs you need to know to avoid the loan mod sharks. Always be suspicious if a stranger contacts you out of the blue offering to help. And as soon anyone starts talking about payments up front- slam down that phone. Remember, it's all about getting your money.

More info:

DFI Charges 40 Companies In Continuing Efforts To Combat Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Scams