Beware Foreclosure Scams
Pinellas County Justice & Consumer Services and Community Development partner to provide consumers free mortgage assistance and alert citizens of potential scams. Homeowners facing financial distress are susceptible to those who desire to profit, by taking advantage of them during this period of economic crisis. In Pinellas County, there are nonprofit agencies providing services and resources to help citizens save their homes from foreclosure. In light of these resources and stimulus money, foreclosure “rescue” fraud is continuing to impact homeowners across the country.
Last week, the Obama administration announced a multi-agency coalition was formed to fight foreclosure rescue scams. Presented as foreclosure assistance, these new scams target homeowners who are experiencing financial difficultly and desperate for help. A proliferation of advertisements are promoted by mail, e-mail and signs posted on street corners. But are these solicitation offers intended to help or to prey on vulnerable homeowners? Foreclosure scams can evolve through several forms, but most often they appear as a request for upfront payment before any help is rendered. Other scams may even convince the homeowner to sign over the deed; in fact, many actually provide little or no assistance in saving the home from foreclosure.
Homeowners are urged to avoid responding to unsolicited letters from unknown companies and beware of potential recovery scams. If in need of assistance, homeowners should contact their local office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Conveniently located throughout the county, the HUD offices offer approved loan counselors who can meet with homeowners to review available options. It’s extremely important that homeowners not wait until it’s too late before seeking assistance. A list of agencies providing FREE foreclosure assistance can be found at the Pinellas County Foreclosure website.
Victims of fraud or consumers in need of information should contact Justice & Consumer Services at (727) 464-6200 or visit Pinellas County Consumer Protection. Contact Community Development for affordable housing and first time homebuyer programs at (727) 464-8210 or visit Pinellas County Community Development.
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