TALLAHASSEE, FL – As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Bill McCollum today issued a consumer advisory on foreclosure rescue services and foreclosure-related loan modification offers, one of the most frequent subjects of complaints to the Attorney General’s Office during 2009. With a second wave of mortgage fraud and foreclosure rescue fraud predicted for 2010, the Attorney General warned homeowners that disreputable companies and individuals will likely continue trying to capitalize on the current economic climate and consumers’ credit and mortgage concerns. “Florida homeowners are trying desperately to protect their homes and families, and con artists are taking advantage of that desperation,” said Attorney General McCollum. “Up-front fees for foreclosure rescue services are illegal, and consumers should refuse to pay those fees and report offending companies immediately.” The Attorney General advised homeowners facing foreclosure or mortgage payments in default to contact their lenders before reaching out to a third party and to never pay up-front fees. Homeowners should also be aware that under the Attorney General’s Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act, Florida law prohibits any company or individual from charging up-front fees for foreclosure rescue or loan modification services related to foreclosures. Within the last year, the Attorney General’s Office has filed 20 lawsuits and is actively investigating nearly 90 companies for potential violations of Florida Statute 501.1377. In an effort to provide further awareness and assistance to the public, the Attorney General’s Office and the Florida InterAgency Mortgage Task Force will host a forum on the housing crisis, Saturday, March 13th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at Florida International University in Miami. This will be the fourth forum hosted by the Attorney General’s Office and will include presentations from state and local government representatives as well as a Q&A session with attendees and experts. Lawyers from local legal aid organizations and other volunteer lawyers will be available to answer questions and provide brief individual consultations, and HUD-certified counselors will also be on hand. All of the services are offered free of any cost. More information regarding the mortgage fraud forum is available at: http://myfloridalegal.com/mfraud.nsf/pages/Meeting. The Attorney General also offered the following tips to identify and avoid a potential foreclosure rescue scam: - Avoid businesses that guarantee to save homes from foreclosure or stop the foreclosure process “no matter what the circumstances.” - Do not work with businesses or individuals who instruct homeowners not to contact their lenders, lawyers or financial counselors and to make mortgage payments directly to the business or individual. - Avoid businesses that use names or symbols which mimic federal and state programs or falsely suggest they offer legal services or are affiliated with an attorney or law firm. - Do not pay any up-front fees for services. Companies requesting up-front fees are violating the law. Before doing business with any loan modification business, check it out fully. Get its physical address, ask for the names of its corporate officers, and call the Attorney General’s Office to determine whether it has any complaints reported against it. Consumers who wish to file a complaint may do so by calling the Attorney General’s fraud hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) or by filing a complaint online at http://myfloridalegal.com. Additional information about National Consumer Protection Week is available at http://www.consumer.gov/ncpw. More tips are available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/55BC21CB13128F728525741800481491.