Mortgage audit scams target homeowners

August 1, 2011 3:44:16 PM PDT
Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage may be seeing new offers that promise to bring them thousands of dollars. The offers come from letters or phone calls, and they say a mortgage audit can turn up big bucks paid out in error to banks. These offers come out of the blue and sound good, but they ask for an up front fee. Even there is a warning consumers to use caution before agreeing to one.

Homeowner Lorenzo Martinez has heard about the offers.

"I am going to be skeptical.. Lke I said, so many people out there trying to take advantage of others," Martinez said.

Martinez is right to be skeptical. Recently, the FTC officially warned consumers about the practice of forensic mortgage audits. The Houston Better Business Bureau is also getting complaints about the audits.

"Almost all of which is that the companies are slow to audit any of the documents or to really offer a service, but they were quick to take an upfront payment," Monica Russo with the Houston BBB said.

That upfront payment is a red flag, according to Russo, who says a Houston woman did pay the fee and then tried to change her mind.

"A woman had paid $150 up front for the service and never received it, and when she tried to get a refund, it was very difficult to do so until she contacted the BBB," Russo said.

The FTC warning says some mortgage audit companies promise they can stop foreclosures, quicken the loan modification process or reduce your monthly payments, all of which are untrue according to the agency.

Martinez says the up front fee is enough for him to doubt the claims of unsolicited mortgage audit companies.

"You are giving them money and there might be a chance that they give you money," he said. "But that is a big mighty chance right there."

The FTC says that when it comes to mortgage fraud, the big red flags are promises to stop foreclosure, instructions to stop talking to your lender and -- again -- those up front fees.

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