Getting a mortgage is difficult enough. Having that mortgage modified because your house has dropped in value can be a Minotaur’s maze full of unscrupulous types looking to cash in on your uncertainty about the often complicated process.
To that end, the good folks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — which is now taking complaints about mortgages — has drafted the following advice for avoiding scammers who only want to separate your money from your bank account:
1. Only your mortgage servicer has discretion to grant a loan modification. Therefore, no third party can guarantee or pre-approve your HAMP mortgage modification application.
2. Beware of anyone seeking to charge you in advance for mortgage modification services — in most cases, charging fees in advance for a mortgage modification is illegal.
3. Paying a third party to assist with your HAMP application does not improve your likelihood of receiving a mortgage modification. Accordingly, beware of individuals or companies that ask you for payment and tout success rates or claim to be “experts” in HAMP.
4. If an individual or company claims to be affiliated with HAMP or displays a seal or logo representing the U.S. government in correspondence or on the Web, you should check the connection by calling the Homeowner’s HOPETM Hotline.
5. Beware of individuals or companies that offer money-back guarantees.
6. Beware of individuals or companies that advise you as a homeowner to stop making your mortgage payments or to not contact your mortgage servicer.
Applying to the federal Home Affordable Modification Program is always free and can be done on your own or with free help from a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For more information on how to apply, call the Homeowner’s HOPETM Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (1-888-995-4673) or visit www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov.
Tips for avoiding mortgage modification scams [ConsumerFinance.gov]