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Foreclosure center warns homeowners about scams

Date: 3/13/2012

March 14, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SRPINGFIELD — The director of the Western Massachusetts Foreclosure Prevention Center said last week that although there has been improvement in the economy, there has been an increase in foreclosures and in scams aimed at people facing foreclosure.

Deborah Broaden told Reminder Publications that criminals are targeting people who are concerned they may be facing foreclosure and presenting services that will help them keep their homes. The con artists charge people between $1,000 and $7,000 for their help, which does nothing to preserve a home.

"It's getting much more prevalent,' she said.

RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosures, noted that in January there were more than 2,300 homes in the Commonwealth that were foreclosed.

Broaden explained the federal programs designed to assist people with mortgage problems haven't been "a huge success" and have opened the door to various scams. She added the criminals are concentrating on minority neighborhoods and senior citizens.

"It's all money up front," Broaden said. Homeowners should be wary of anyone who asks for fees to negotiate a new mortgage, guarantees a loan modification or to make loan payments for a customer.

According to information supplied by HAPHousing, the agency that manages the foreclosure prevention center, the scammers are using the Internet as well as direct mailing, door-to-door solicitations and ads on radio and in newspapers.

Broaden urged any homeowner who is fearful of a possible foreclosure to contact the center at 233-1622. She said that money that might be lost in a scam could be used to reduce a principal or make payments.

She explained the center looks at a homeowner's complete financial status to write a budget and then to seek a loan modification. The National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program found in a three-year study that financial counseling with homeowners doubled the possibility they would receive a loan modification, allowing them to stay in their home.

In Springfield, she said there were homeowners affected by the June 1, 2011 tornado whose homes were already in "under water" carrying a mortgage that was higher than the value of the home. This has complicated the recovery of the area and decisions about homes and loans, she said.

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