Federal Trade Commission sues mortgage relief companies

The Federal Trade Commission recently filed three separate lawsuits against mortgage relief companies – Prime Legal Plans/Reaching U Network, American Mortgage Consulting Group, and Expense Management America.  According to the FTC’s allegations, these companies were fraudulently selling mortgage relief services.  The companies charged homeowners for various services that were supposed to reduce mortgage payments or otherwise relieve them of mortgage obligations.  In reality, the companies accepted payment without providing services.  Additionally, the companies violated other laws by, among other things, calling homeowners that were on the do-not-call registry, fraudulently claiming to be associated with government agencies, fraudulently claiming to be attorneys, collecting upfront fees, and claiming to be charities.

It is bad enough that these companies were charging distressed homeowners without providing services.  What’s worse is that, by convincing homeowners that their services would be effective, these companies prevented homeowners from pursuing legitimate services and defenses.

According to a recent press release, the FTC has filed more than 40 cases against fraudulent mortgage relief services since 2008.  This suggests that such practices might be quite common.  Homeowners should always be on guard against potential scams, and should gather as much information as possible about mortgage relief or other debt defense companies before making payments.

The Attorneys at Vaughn and Weber have experience in Loan Modification Negotiation and Foreclosure Defense.  If you have any questions about these areas and would like to schedule a free consultation, call our office at 516-858-2620 today to schedule a free consultation.

News: FTC Bans Upfront Loan Modification Fees

On November 19, 2010, in Message/News Board, Real Estate, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

The following is from the website of the Federal Trade Commission:

FTC Issues Final Rule to Protect Struggling Homeowners from Mortgage Relief Scams

Rule Outlaws Advance Fees and False Claims, Requires Clear Disclosures

Homeowners will be protected by a new Federal Trade Commission rule that bans providers of mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification services from collecting fees until homeowners have a written offer from their lender or servicer that they decide is acceptable.

“At a time when many Americans are struggling to pay their mortgages, peddlers of so-called mortgage relief services have taken hundreds of millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of homeowners without ever delivering results,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “By banning providers of these services from collecting fees until the customer is satisfied with the results, this rule will protect consumers from being victimized by these scams.”

The FTC is issuing the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule to protect distressed homeowners from mortgage relief scams that have sprung up during the mortgage crisis. Bogus operations falsely claim that, for a fee, they will negotiate with the consumer’s mortgage lender or servicer to obtain a loan modification, a short sale, or other relief from foreclosure. Many of these operations pretend to be affiliated with the government and government housing assistance programs. The FTC has brought more than 30 cases against operations like these, and state and federal law enforcement partners have brought hundreds more.

Advance fee ban

The most significant consumer protection under the FTC’s new rule is the advance fee ban. Under this provision, mortgage relief companies may not collect any fees until they have provided consumers with a written offer from their lender or servicer that the consumer decides is acceptable, and a written document from the lender or servicer describing the key changes to the mortgage that would result if the consumer accepts the offer. The companies also must remind consumers of their right to reject the offer without any charge.

Disclosures

The Rule requires mortgage relief companies to disclose key information to consumers to protect them from being misled and to help them make better informed purchasing decisions. In their advertising and in communications directed at individual consumers (such as telemarketing calls), the companies must disclose that:

  • they are not associated with the government, and their services have not been approved by the government or the consumer’s lender;
  • the lender may not agree to change the consumer’s loan; and
  • if companies tell consumers to stop paying their mortgage, they must also tell them that they could lose their home and damage their credit rating.

Companies also must explain in their communications to consumers that they can stop doing business with the company at any time, can accept or reject any offer the company obtains from the lender or servicer, and, if they reject the offer, they don’t have to pay the company’s fee. The companies also must disclose the amount of the fee.

Prohibited claims

The MARS Rule prohibits mortgage relief companies from making any false or misleading claims about their services, including claims about:

  • the likelihood of consumers getting the results they seek;
  • the company’s affiliation with government or private entities;
  • the consumer’s payment and other mortgage obligations;
  • the company’s refund and cancellation policies;
  • whether the company has performed the services it promised;
  • whether the company will provide legal representation to consumers;
  • the availability or cost of any alternative to for-profit mortgage assistance relief services;
  • the amount of money a consumer will save by using their services; or
  • the cost of the services.

In addition, the rule bars mortgage relief companies from telling consumers to stop communicating with their lenders or servicers. Companies also must have reliable evidence to back up any claims they make about the benefits, performance, or effectiveness of the services they provide.

Attorney exemption

Attorneys are generally exempt from the rule if they meet three conditions: they are engaged in the practice of law, they are licensed in the state where the consumer or the dwelling is located, and they are complying with state laws and regulations governing attorney conduct related to the rule. To be exempt from the advance fee ban, attorneys must meet a fourth requirement – they must place any fees they collect in a client trust account and abide by state laws and regulations covering such accounts.

All provisions of the rule except the advance-fee ban will become effective December 29, 2010. The advance-fee ban provisions will become effective January 31, 2011.

Read the entire Press Release here.

News: No Upfront Fees For Debt Relief Companies

On August 6, 2010, in Message/News Board, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  issues rule prohibiting debt relief companies from collecting advance fees.

“Starting on October 27, 2010, for-profit companies that sell debt relief services over the telephone may no longer charge a fee before they settle or reduce a customer’s credit card or other unsecured debt.

Advance Fee Ban

The Final Rule contains specific requirements for debt relief providers related to charging an advance fee before providing any services. It specifies that fees for debt relief services may not be collected until:

  • the debt relief service successfully renegotiates, settles, reduces, or otherwise changes the terms of at least one of the consumer’s debts;
  • there is a written settlement agreement, debt management plan, or other agreement between the consumer and the creditor, and the consumer has agreed to it; and
  • the consumer has made at least one payment to the creditor as a result of the agreement negotiated by the debt relief provider.

To ensure that debt relief providers do not front-load their fees if a consumer has enrolled multiple debts in one debt relief program, the Final Rule specifies how debt relief providers can collect their fee for each settled debt. First, the provider’s fee for a single debt must be in proportion to the total fee that would be charged if all of the debts had been settled. Alternatively, if the provider bases its fee on the percentage of what the consumer saves as result of using its services, the percentage charged must be the same for each of the consumer’s debts.”

Click this link to read the entire FTC press release

Forensic Mortgage Loan Audits

On July 5, 2010, in Foreclosure, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

Forensic Loan Auditors: Are they helping or hurting struggling homeowners?

A Forensic Loan Auditor,  purportedly, reviews your mortgage loan documents to determine whether your mortgage lender violated any state or federal mortgage lending laws when they funded your loan.

We always wondered if these outfits were really helping homeowners. We couldn’t quite figure out how just finding problems with the loan documents, and not actually using that information to defend the foreclosure, was helping homeowners.

Well, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a released a consumer alert, Forensic Mortgage Loan Audit Scams: A New Twist on Foreclosure Rescue Fraud, which states that these mortgage audits are “the latest foreclosure rescue scam to exploit financially strapped homeowners…” The alert goes on to state the following:

In exchange for an upfront fee of several hundred dollars, so-called forensic loan auditors, mortgage loan auditors, or foreclosure prevention auditors backed by forensic attorneys offer to review your mortgage loan documents to determine whether your lender complied with state and federal mortgage lending laws. The “auditors” say you can use the audit report to avoid foreclosure, accelerate the loan modification process, reduce your loan principal, or even cancel your loan.

Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the FTC and its law enforcement partners:

  • there is no evidence that forensic loan audits will help you get a loan modification or any other foreclosure relief, even if they’re conducted by a licensed, legitimate and trained auditor, mortgage professional or lawyer.
  • some federal laws allow you to sue your lender based on errors in your loan documents. But even if you sue and win, your lender is not required to modify your loan simply to make your payments more affordable.
  • if you cancel your loan, you will lose your home and you will have to return the money you borrowed to your lender.

It is our standard practice, as foreclosure defense attorneys, to review ALL documents relating to the purchase and possible foreclosure of your home for potential defenses. We often find ourselves, due to no fault of our own, reviewing and drafting hundreds of pages in a short period of time.  This is very  labor intensive work, but we take pride in stopping unnecessary foreclosures and providing our clients with an opportunity to remain in their home.

As always, The Foreclosure Defense Law Firm of VAUGHN & WEBER, PLLC is here to assist you.  We are conveniently located in the heart of Nassau County, Long Island, NY.  Contact us at (516) 858-2620 to arrange a consultation with a foreclosure defense attorney.

Please visit our Foreclosure category to learn more about foreclosure issues.

Click here to read the entire Consumer Alert: Forensic Mortgage Loan Audit Scams: A New Twist on Foreclosure Rescue Fraud.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is Attorney Advertising. It does not form an attorney-client relationship. We are a debt relief agency and a law firm that helps people file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code – Title 11. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Proudly assisting residents of Long Island, Nassau county, Suffolk county, New York City, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan