Federal and State Agencies Target Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue and Loan Modification Scams
FTC Leads “Operation Loan Lies” to Stop Fraud and Help Distressed Homeowners
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, joined by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, today announced Operation Loan Lies, a coordinated national law enforcement effort to crack down on mortgage modification scams. The operation involves 189 actions by 25 federal and state agencies against defendants who deceptively marketed foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification services. The FTC actions, which affect consumers throughout the nation, are being announced in southern California, where the scams originated.
“These con artists see the high foreclosure rates as an opportunity to prey on people in distress,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “They promise to rescue homeowners in troubled financial waters, but after they take their money they throw them an anchor instead of a lifeline. People facing foreclosure should avoid any company or individual that requires a fee in advance, guarantees to stop a foreclosure or modify a loan, or advises the homeowner to stop paying the mortgage company.”
The FTC announced four lawsuits, bringing to 14 the number of mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification scam cases the Commission has brought since April. Twenty-three state attorneys general and other agencies are participating in the operation, taking action against 178 companies engaged in these types of deception. The FTC also announced a settlement in a lawsuit filed last November.
The FTC charged that the defendants falsely claimed that they would either obtain a mortgage loan modification or stop foreclosure, or both, and that some of the defendants falsely represented that they would give consumers refunds if they failed to do so. After charging consumers the equivalent of one month’s mortgage payment or more in advance, these companies often did little or nothing to help homeowners renegotiate their mortgages or stop foreclosure. After failing to provide the promised services, the defendants that promised refunds did not honor those promises. In each case the FTC is asking the court for consumer redress and a permanent bar on the deceptive practices. The FTC would like to thank the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the Department of the Treasury and the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIG-TARP) for their invaluable assistance in these cases.