The ads will appear in billboards and on Facebook in the areas that have reported foreclosure rescue scams most frequently. Typically, a scammer will promise the distressed homeowner a lifeline out of foreclosure but then take the homeowners money while not providing the help that was promised.
The series of ads promotes homeowners to visit AGScamHelp.com, which gives homeowners access to the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a network of nearly 90 housing counseling and legal service agencies funded by Schneiderman's office. HOPP provides free services to distressed homeowners who are facing foreclosure.
"The most powerful tools to stop mortgage rescue scams are educated, vigilant homeowners," Schneiderman said. "These scams are particularly pernicious because they take victims of the housing crash and make them victims again. My office will do all we can to ensure homeowners have the tools they need to protect themselves and we will continue to vigorously pursue scammers who target vulnerable homeowners."
"The most powerful tools to stop mortgage rescue scams are educated, vigilant homeowners."
AGScamHelp.com is a web-based app launched by Schneiderman's office in December 2014 in response to complaints about the prevalence of foreclosure rescue scams in New York. According to the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, New York homeowners have submitted more than 2,700 complaints about foreclosure rescue scams documenting at least $8.25 million in losses. That computes to an average of about $4,183 for victim of a foreclosure rescue scam, about $900 more than the national average. Among states, only California and Florida have logged more complaints than New York in the Loan Modification Scam Database. Homeowners can often lose more beyond was directly stolen from them in the scam if their home subsequently goes into foreclosure as a result.
Foreclosure rescue scammers have stolen about $100 million from more than 42,000 homeowners, according to a report by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in December 2014.
The ad campaign aims to direct information to New York homeowners who are most at risk of being victimized by a foreclosure rescue scam on how to avoid such scams and were they can go for assistance.
On AGScamHelp.com, homeowners can do the following:
Search government-vetted companies. Consumers can search a company's name to determine if that company is "government-vetted," (either a member of the HOPP network or a HUD-certified counseling agency).
Locate nearby counseling partners. Homeowners can find the nearest HOPP grantee by using an interactive map.
Report scams: Homeowners who are working with a company they suspect of operating a scam have the option to file a complaint with the AG's office.
Get tips. AGScamHelp offers homeowners information on how to recognize a foreclosure scam, including sample scam letters.
Funds from the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement, a $25 billion agreement between 49 state attorneys general (all but Oklahoma) and the nation's five largest servicers, are supporting the AGScamHelp.com site and the new advertising campaign.
Justin Lee Thayer is Lane counties expert in market analysis for real estate investors. Call Justin @ 541-543-7287