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Gov't taskforce created to protect homeowners from scams

The U.S. government has taken steps to aid homeowners facing foreclosure or mounting unpaid mortgages by creating the Home Affordable Modification Program. However, there are those out there who would take advantage of vulnerable homeowners seeking to use the program. To protect them, a joint task force has been created by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Treasury Department.

The task force hopes to shut down HAMP-related mortgage modification scams through investigation and education. They recently issued a consumer fraud alert to "empower homeowners with the knowledge of how to recognize and avoid these scams," said the Deputy Special Inspector General for SIGTARP. Those involved with the task force want to give homeowners the skills to spot scams and protect themselves, as well as the resources to report and prevent scams. The task force is also charged with taking legal action against scammers.

A few quick tips for homeowners thinking about applying for HAMP mortgage modification:

· Loan modification must be done by the mortgage servicer only, and not a third party.

· Be wary of those asking for fees upfront, which is usually illegal. Money should not be involved until after the mortgage modification is approved.

· If a company claims to be affiliated with HAMP or the government, double check with the government's Homeowner's HOPE Hotline or the HAMP website.

· Communication should remain open between homeowner and mortgage servicer. Any company that encourages stopped payments should not be trusted.

For those facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, it is important to remember that there are experienced attorneys out there who can help. Trying to get a mortgage modification, while trying to stay current on payments, can seem intimidating, but there are options available. It is important to know those options before being taken advantage of by a scam artist.

Source: Hometown Source, "Task force created to combat scams targeted at homeowners," Dec. 2, 2011

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