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Don’t Fall Prey to Foreclosure Scam Artists

While tempting to talk to people who seem to be official and offer genuine help with your foreclosure, don’t fall prey to foreclosure scam artists. It is tempting when someone promises to help those who can no longer pay for dream homes, be very cautious and know that scam artists are out there who will offer phony foreclosure assistance.

Eric Lanigan explains that many organizations that appear to be non-profits or government organizations are actually for-profit and completely illegally run organizations.

Do Your Research and Don’t Fall Prey to Foreclosure Scam Artists

Two Florida men who created and ran a phony non-profit. It ran under the false name of Home Owners Protection Economics Inc., (HOPE). The two were sentenced to serve 84 months in prison by a Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge after bilking over $4 million from thousands of homeowners.

Christopher S. Godfrey, 44, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Dennis Fischer, 42, of Highland Beach, Fla., were taking advantage of distressed homeowners vulnerable to the above stated disguise of “help.” Instead they preyed on people trying to refinance mortgages.  

According to court records, Godfrey and Fischer “routinely claimed that the homeowner had already been approved for a loan modification, provided phony “approval codes,” quoted new (and wholly fictitious) mortgage terms and due dates, touted their 98 percent past success rate and claimed that they were “underwriters” or were otherwise affiliated with the homeowners’ mortgage companies.  

Godfrey and Fischer were found guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and misusing a government seal while claiming that their organization, HOPE, would offer homeowners refunds in the unlikely event that they did not receive a loan modification.

The two men stole millions of dollars from struggling Americans who wanted help refinancing mortgages to save their homes from foreclosure. Instead of help, the two exploited homeowners and prevented them from getting the real that was needed.

Godfrey and Fischer will each spend the next seven years in federal prison for scamming homeowners by selling for $400 to $2,000 what is a free application to TARP’s housing program.

They operated under the name of HOPE and got struggling homeowners to pay HOPE $400 to $2,000 in an up-front fee for HOPE’s help obtaining federally-funded home loan modifications.  

For example, HOPE claimed that with its assistance a homeowner was guaranteed to receive a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

This is never true: there is no guarantee and there is absolutely no promise of a modification. HAMP is a part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) which is a federally funded mortgage-assistance program. 

According to the trial evidence, “in exchange for the up-front fees, HOPE sent its customers who were homeowners across the country, a do-it-yourself application package, which was virtually identical to the application that the government provides free of charge.  

“The HOPE customers had no advantage in the application process, and, in fact, most of their applications were denied.  Through these misrepresentations, HOPE was able to persuade thousands of homeowners to pay more than $4 million in fees.

Identical Paperwork as Supplied by Government

This is the kind of case that Eric Lanigan and Roddy Lanigan would explain that no matter how financially strapped a person is, it is worth finding money for a consultation from an attorney on a foreclosure.

“It’s so terribly important to work with a qualified foreclosure lawyer who will be honest about the ability to help a homeowner,” Eric Lanigan said. “Beware of places that offer anything free. Free consultations to save your home will get you advice that you may or may not be helped by.

“Only an attorney has the legal knowledge and ability to provide legal advice about a foreclosure. Yes, there are decidedly criminal advisors out there who will tell you absolutely wrong information. Will try to manipulate you into paying them, signing over property. It’s ridiculous how many things that these scam artists try to get away with.”

These criminals claimed they operated HOPE as a non-profit, when, in fact, it was operated as a for-profit telemarketing fraud scheme. 

If You Cannot Afford an Attorney, Vet the Organization

Check any organization that is being considered by a homeowner for help with a mortgage refinance or a foreclosure. Ask to see certifications, look for ratings by the Better Business Bureau, HUD. Call HAMP, the government organization to find out if indeed the organization is legitimate.

If you’re unsure, visit government websites, find a number and call to ask about the organization. No matter who refers you, no matter what group provides the reference, vet anyone that you’re going to pay for help with your mortgage. 

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