You pay the fee.
And your home winds up in foreclosure while the company that took your money disappears.
On Wednesday, five out-of-state foreclosure consulting companies were sued by the state of Indiana for allegedly ripping off homeowners in St. Joseph, Elkhart, Allen and LaPorte counties.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed five lawsuits — three in St. Joseph Circuit Court and two in Elkhart County — charging four companies and one law firm with violating the Credit Services Organization Act, the Mortgage Rescue Protection Fraud Act, the Home Loan Practices Act and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
American Home Relief Foundation of Delaware, CC Brown Law of Utah, Legacy Holding Group of Arizona, and Right Away Doc Preparations Inc. and Property Solutions Center, both of California, “… promised to modify customers’ home loans in exchange for an upfront fee but didn’t complete the job or provide a refund,” Zoeller charged in the suit.
“It’s illegal in Indiana to take an upfront fee without filing a surety bond with the state attorney general’s office,” Zoeller said, standing on the front steps of the St. Joseph County Courthouse moments after filing two of the suits Wednesday afternoon.
“None of these five (companies) filed surety bonds with my office,” he said.
They are accused of scamming $2,490 from two St. Joseph County residents; $10,164 from a St. Joseph resident and an Allen County homeowner; $6,820 from two consumers in St. Joseph and LaPorte counties; $795 from an Elkhart County homeowner; and $1,500 from another Elkhart County resident.
“Once your home is foreclosed, that’s a public record,” Zoeller said, noting that mortgage consulting companies scour foreclosure listings daily looking for targets.
Each of the victims listed in the suits paid upfront fees to the defendants on the advertised promise of a home loan modification.
Zoeller said such advertisements promising home loan modifications — which could include lowering interest rates — “are almost always a scam.”
“Please don’t pay upfront fees to people who say they can help you with your mortgage,” the state attorney general cautioned.
Zoeller recommended that consumers in need of help with home loans should try to work with their mortgage company, or seek assistance from area nonprofit groups set up to help homeowners with mortgage issues.
In South Bend, homeowners can call the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center, said Notre Dame law professor Judy Fox.
“We represent you for free,” Fox said.
Contact the Clinical Law Center at 574-631-7795.
Since 2006, the attorney general’s office has filed 140 lawsuits against foreclosure consultant companies in more than 30 counties across Indiana.
Zoeller urged those who may have been victimized by a mortgage relief scam to file a complaint with the Indiana State Attorney General’s Office.
Staff writer Jeff Harrell:
©2012 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)
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