Over the summer, we told you about a mortgage relief scam that defrauded homeowners in financial distress. The case especially affected Spanish-speaking homeowners in Southern California. According to the FTC, Brookstone Law and Advantis Law firms convinced homeowners to make an upfront payment to join a mortgage lawsuit against banks and lenders, supposedly to help them avoid foreclosure, get rid of their mortgages, or get money from their lenders.
FTC investigators have discovered that the law firms hired Spanish-speaking salespeople – none of whom were lawyers – to interact with people, help establish credibility and make their targets feel more comfortable. The salespeople used a Spanish-language script to lure homeowners into these bogus mortgage lawsuits, tricking them into paying illegal upfront fees – which, in the end, got them nothing.
Did you talk with or give money to Brookstone Law or Advantis Law? Or did you counsel someone who did? Here are a few things to know:
- If you still need information about your particular case, seek the advice of a private attorney. You can also visit the receiver’s site for more information (in English), including your rights in this case.
- Make sure the attorney you talk to is legitimate. Take down the full name of the person you are speaking with. Then check with your state bar association to make sure they are a member of the bar in your state, and in good standing.
- Never pay a mortgage assistance company until it delivers the results you want. It’s illegal for companies to collect any fees until a homeowner has actually gotten an offer of relief from his or her lender and accepted it. If a company asks for upfront fees, it’s a sign of a scam.
- Contact a credit counselor if you need help paying your mortgage. The Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) is a member of the HOPE NOW Alliance of mortgage servicers and counselors. Call them at 1.888.995.HOPE.