Public Awareness Campaign Empowers Homeowners to Combat Loan Modification Scams

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A network of local, state and national partners held a press conference in Riverside to announce new resources for at-risk homeowners to recognize scams, report them and find legitimate help.

A partnership of local, state and national agencies at a press conference in Riverside, CA

As the foreclosure rate grows, more and more homeowners are being deceived by scam artists who prey on their fears

Today in Riverside, a partnership of local, state and national government agencies, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions gathered at the steps of City Hall to launch a public education campaign designed to help homeowners protect themselves against loan modification scams, find trusted help and report illegal activity to authorities. This was among several kickoff events held in recent months in cities across the country to announce the “Loan Modification Scam Alert” campaign, a national initiative designed to combat loan modification scams.

The national foreclosure rate has reached an all-time high, and millions more foreclosures are expected in coming years. “As the foreclosure rate grows, more and more homeowners are being deceived by scam artists who prey on their fears,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer of NeighborWorks America. “This campaign is based on the belief that knowledge is the best defense, which is why the campaign equips homeowners with the tools they need to minimize their risk and stop scammers in their tracks.”

The regional kickoff event featured representatives from Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, the local faith-based community, the Better Business Bureau of the Southland, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Trade Commission and local housing counseling agencies, including the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire, Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services and Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management. Also present were local homeowners who shared their personal experiences with loan modification scams to inform other homeowners in their community about this activity.

NeighborWorks America will coordinate the nationwide effort through its 235 community-based affiliates and other local, state and national partner organizations, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Together, the partners aim to reach thousands of distressed homeowners in hundreds of communities at high risk for fraud activity. The campaign will target all audiences, but its resources are focused sharpest on those groups that have already seen high levels of scam activity, including seniors, Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans.

As part of the campaign, information, resources and reporting capabilities are now available around the clock at http://www.LoanScamAlert.org and by calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4673). Community groups may also visit the Web site to access campaign materials available for download and distribution in their area.

Through real-life scam stories, collateral materials, print advertising, local radio PSAs, events, word of mouth and social media activity, the campaign will educate the public about the warning signs of a loan modification scam. “Borrowers must avoid any individual or firm that asks for a fee in advance, guarantees a loan modification or tells you to pay them instead of paying the mortgage. Only a lender can guarantee a loan modification and they do not charge,” said Richard Castro, communications manager for NeighborWorks America.

Homeowners are also urged to report scam activity at once to the proper authorities through the campaign Web site and hotline. “We want to stress how crucial it is for people to learn the signs of a scam and quickly report any encounter that just doesn’t ring true,” said Castro. “Scammers are out there trying to take advantage of people in a tough spot. The campaign is making it easier for homeowners in distress to fight back, and help us shut scam artists down.”

About the Housing Opportunities Collaborative of the Inland Empire
The Housing Opportunities Collaborative of the Inland Empire (HOCIE) is comprised of organizations working together sharing best practices and resources to deliver comprehensive support to individuals and families in their quest for sustainable homeownership.    The HOCIE is a sister agency to the Housing Opportunities Collaborative (HOC), a coalition of nonprofit organizations and agencies originally formed in the San Diego region in 2006. The HOCIE is located at 1201 Research Park Drive, Suite 100, Riverside, CA 92507. For more information on the Housing Opportunities Collaborative of the Inland Empire, call (951) 742-8211 or visit their web site at http://www.hocie.org.

About NeighborWorks America
NeighborWorks America is a national nonprofit organization created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance and training for community-based revitalization efforts. NeighborWorks includes a national network of 235 community-based organizations in 50 states, which strives to create healthy communities through the work of thousands of residents, business people, government officials and other partners.

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