Federal task force targets mortgage relief scams

NEW YORK (AP) ? Federal agencies are taking aim at scams and con artists that promise to provide mortgage relief to struggling homeowners.

A newly formed task force will investigate and shut down schemes that prey on homeowners looking to apply for the Home Affordable Modification Program, the agencies said Thursday.

The three agencies responsible for the task force are the Treasury Department, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

In announcing the creation of the task force, the agencies issued a consumer alert reminding homeowners that they can apply for the federal loan modification program on their own at no cost at www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov . Housing counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are also available to help in the application process, the agencies noted.

The agencies also warned homeowners of any third parties that try to charge advance fees for mortgage modification services. The agencies noted that paying a third party does not improve a homeowner’s chances of being approved for a mortgage modification. Only mortgage servicers have the discretion to grant loan modifications.

The task force will also work to alert homeowners to scams and educate them on the federal program, the agencies said.

“These scams prey upon the most vulnerable homeowners as they desperately hold out hope of saving their homes,” said Christy Romero, Deputy Special Inspector General for SIGTARP.