NeighborWorks, a national nonprofit created by Congress in 1974, has launched a campaign that is loan modification scam central: tips on how to spot scams, numbers to call if you suspect you are being scammed and poignant vignettes of people who have been scammed.
The timing for a national anti-scam campaign seems good: With foreclosures persisting at all-time highs, the market for scamming continues to boom. The stories seem genuine.
The advice about warning signs is sound, echoing many WalletPop's Charles Feldman recently offered: upfront fees, suggestions to stop paying your mortgage, guarantees that foreclosure can be stopped, requests for you to sign over your deed, and so on.
Even the phone number is catchy, a reminder of a certain recent presidential campaign: 1-888-995-HOPE.
The only thing missing is an organized national legal campaign to rout out scammers. As WalletPop previously reported, prosecution goes on largely in a patchwork fashion via attorneys general across the nation, allowing bad actors to hopscotch to other states when pressured.
But NeighborWorks is making a valiant effort to get the word out, using social media -- Twitter and Facebook -- in addition to more traditional outreach. Interested groups also can download campaign material from NeighborWorks' Web site to launch their own local campaign. One commenter on NeighborWorks Facebook site says, "It's too late for me, I've already been scammed..."
Awareness cannot be underestimated. Consider the twisted story of one woman highlighted by NeighborWorks, Alejandra Vargas, who returned home to find an eviction notice posted on her Pasadena, Calif. home and drove to the address on the notice only to find it was simply a mailbox.
The real estate office next door was extremely helpful, however, and offered to see what it could do about her foreclosure. A thousand dollars later, to make the long story short, Vargas discovered the real estate office had set up the whole scam.
Others highlighted on the site succumbed to far less ingenious scams, sometimes more than once, often losing several thousand dollars when they could least afford to.
Nonprofit launches loan modification scam campaign