Efforts Launched to Fight Foreclosure Rescue Scams
Foreclosure rescue scams are pushing more struggling homeowners deeper into debt, and state and federal law enforcement must work together to stop them, Attorney General Roy Cooper recently told officials in Washington.
Cooper met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz and 11 other state attorneys general to discuss ways to fight foreclosure and loan modification scams.
"Foreclosure scams cost homeowners time and money, two things you can't afford to lose when you're fighting to save your home," Cooper said. "In North Carolina, we're cracking down on foreclosure scammers who take homeowners' money but do little or nothing to help them."
Many North Carolina homeowners are worried about losing their homes, and scammers are trying to take advantage of them. Complaints to Cooper's office about foreclosure scams are up dramatically.
In 2007, seven consumers complained to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division about foreclosure scams, a news release said. The number of complaints rose to 82 in 2008, and to 353 so far in 2009.
In 2005, Cooper helped win a state law that makes it illegal to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure assistance in North Carolina.
Cooper urged FTC officials to put a national ban in place on upfront fees for foreclosure help, and also encouraged the U.S. Department of Justice to ramp up criminal prosecutions of these scams.
Cooper and his Consumer Protection team have used North Carolina's law to take action against more than 130 foreclosure assistance scams since January of 2008, winning judgments worth close to $1 million from scammers and recovering more than $100,000 in refunds for consumers, the news release said.
"Never, ever pay money upfront to anyone who claims they'll help you with foreclosure," Cooper said. "Real help is available for free from qualified nonprofit counselors."
North Carolina homeowners can call a toll-free hotline set up by the N.C. Commissioner of Banks' Office for free counseling on options to avoid foreclosure. The hotline, (866) 234-4857, is available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Tips on how to spot a foreclosure scam are available on the attorney general's Web site, www.ncdoj.gov.
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