Four fair housing organizations have released their findings of a year-long undercover investigation of 80 loan modification companies. The National Fair Housing Alliance, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia Inc. and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center have issued the report, "Have I Got a Deal for You! An Undercover Investigation of Mortgage Loan Modification Scams," which documents the tactics mortgage modification scammers use to take money from vulnerable homeowners.
An analysis of the 80 loan modification companies uncovered common tactics used by scammers to entice homeowners to use their services:
►55 percent required an upfront fee to start work or required a low initial fee to conduct minimal work on behalf of distressed homeowners, such as reviewing loan documents;
►43 percent guaranteed or promised they could secure a loan modification even before learning about the homeowners' financial limitations;
►24 percent advised or encouraged homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments or to stop contacting their lenders;
►16 percent guaranteed a new, much lower interest rate ranging between two and six percent on modified loans;
►12 percent discouraged homeowners from seeking free help from government-approved housing counseling agencies;
►Eight percent encouraged homeowners to provide fraudulent information to their lenders.
"This is shameful abuse by loan modification scammers to take advantage of desperate homeowners," said Shanna L. Smith, National Fair Housing Association (NFHA) president and chief executive officer. "We and our partner organizations will work to see to it that these companies are prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission and other federal and state enforcement agencies."
Investigators working on behalf of the fair housing organizations in conducting research for "Have I Got a Deal for You! An Undercover Investigation of Mortgage Loan Modification Scams" captured scammers saying things like:
►"I'd be breaking the law if I told you to stop paying your mortgage, but friend-to-friend, you won't get a loan modification until you are behind on your mortgage."
►"If you don't qualify, we modify expenses for you. They [the lenders] don't check it. No one knows what you spend on groceries. We make you qualify by playing with the numbers."