The FTC has been busy cracking down on mortgage relief scams. Just this year, the FTC has obtained settlements from over 20 individuals and companies involved with scamming distressed homeowners.
Most recently, two individuals and seven companies settled FTC charges that they victimized over a thousand people through “mass joinder lawsuits” and “forensic loan audits.” These defendants allegedly violated the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, which aims to curb deceptive and unfair practices related to such services.
Mass Joinder Lawsuit Scam
The FTC alleges that Sameer Lakhany, Brian Pacios, Precision Law Center, Inc., Precision Law Center LLC, National Legal Network, Inc., and Assurity Law Group, Inc. targeted consumers with a mass joinder scam. The defendants allegedly promised homeowners that they could stop their foreclosures or obtain some other mortgage relief if they joined together to sue their lenders. The defendants represented themselves as a law firm called Precision Law Center and charged between $6,000 and $10,000 in up-front fees. Unfortunately for the victims, every suit was dismissed soon after being filed.
Forensic Loan Audit Scam
Lakhany was also involved in a “forensic loan audit” scam, along with The Credit Shop, LLC, Titanium Realty, Inc., and Fidelity Legal Services LLC; but the defendants allegedly held themselves out as nonprofit organizations with the domain names “FreeFedLoanMod.org,” “HouseholdRelief.org,” and “MyHomeSupport.org.” The forensic loan audit scam sells consumers an auditing service, which supposedly finds lender violations in mortgage documents. In this case, the defendants generally charged nearly $800 up to nearly $1,600 for this service. According to the complaint, the defendants told consumers that lender violations would force lenders to favorably modify their loans and that violations are found at least 90 percent of the time. Allegedly, the audits may have never actually led to a single favorable loan modification for the victims.
As part of the settlements, the defendants are required to surrender many assets and pay $4.75 million redress in total. All but Assurity Law Group, Inc. are banned from mortgage relief and debt relief services, through Assurity will be required to surrender $100,000 in funds and has been ordered to cease any deceptive practices.
Other FTC Settlements
In February, the Ryan Zimmerman, Consumer Advocates Group Experts, LLC, Paramount Asset Management Corporation, and Advocates for Consumer Affairs Expert, LLC settled with the FTC for allegedly preying on consumers using the forensic loan audit scam. The defendants charged nearly $2,000 or more for the audits, but they of course failed to make good on their false claims, allegedly. In addition to a receiving a $3.5 million judgment against them, the defendants have been banned from marketing relief services or products, as well as from making any misleading claims about any other type of product or service.
In January, eight defendants settled with the FTC over charges that they sold fake relief services to distressed Spanish-speaking homeowners over the phone. The defendants include David F. Preiner, Daniel Hungria, Freedom Companies Marketing, Inc., Freedom Companies Lending, Inc., Freedom Companies, Inc., Grupo Marketing Dominicana, Freedom Information Services, Inc., and Haiti Management, Inc. The defendants allegedly collected over $2 million from consumers over three years, but simply did not provide the services they falsely claimed they could provide. As part of the settlement, the defendants received a $2.39 million judgment, are banned from marketing relief products or services, and are prohibited from making misleading claims about anything they may advertise.
You Have Options
There are many options available to struggling homeowners. You can always speak with your servicer, a credit counselor, or an attorney about those options. Any company that offers its mortgage relief services and instructs you to avoid speaking with any of the above is breaking the law. Stop business with them immediately and contact an attorney who can help you with your situation.