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Watch out for debt help

May 18, 2009 3:53:32 PM PDT
When the economy went south and some of Wall Street's biggest firms started getting federal bailouts, Virginia Hays decided she needed financial help of her own. "I was scared of the economy that I could see going straight down the tubes," she told investigative reporter Steve Daniels.

"I heard about No More Mortgage on the radio," she recalled. "There was an advertisement about paying your debts off - as early as within five years. I thought it sounded like a good idea."

Hays and her husband started listening to the No More Mortgage sales pitch as they drove around Lumberton.

"They're salesmen and so they know how to say the right things to make it sound attractive. They are sincere. They are caring. They want to help, and it comes across very well," she explained.

No More Mortgage is based in Utah and most of Hays' dealings with the company occurred through email. She received charts and graphs mapping out why the plan would work for her and how her $128,000 in debt would disappear.

"What they did was they took from one credit card that had enough room on it to put the entire amount," she said. "It was all put on one credit card to the tune of $4,300."

Due to a big change in her income, that $4,300 payment was too much, and Hays had to back out of the deal.

"We could not; we couldn't survive and pay that kind of money on the bills. We just couldn't do it. We had to eat," she said.

When Hays contacted No More Mortgage, she said it did agree to refund almost all of her money.

"We were supposed to have it back within a couple of weeks. Then, it was a month. It just drug on and drug on and drug on. We still haven't got it back," she said.

So, Hays turned to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. Roy Cooper told Eyewitness News he's been getting lots of complaints from people who claim they were taken advantage of by credit repair or debt relief companies.

"Most of these outfits are just out to bilk a thousand bucks, 12 hundred bucks - whatever it is out of the debtor. They really don't do anything for them," Attorney General Roy Cooper told Eyewitness News.

Cooper has issued nearly 30 letters ordering credit repair and debt relief companies to stop violating North Carolina law which prohibits debt consolidation services for a fee.

"Anybody who wants you to send a check, then that is a violation of the law. So, you know they are not on the up and up and we want you to report those companies to us," said Cooper.

Cooper also said there are plenty of services that can help with debt consolidation at no charge.

Click here for more information from the North Carolina Attorney General's Office

Eyewitness News contacted No More Mortgage and the Utah company told us the North Carolina the law doesn't apply to them. It said that's because it provides financial counseling rather than debt settlement.

It also said they were not contractually required to refund the money but did so because of the Hays' personal circumstances. It apologized for the refund delay and waived a cancellation fee.

The Hays received a full refund check a few days ago.

Mortgage help

NC Attorney General Cooper also told Eyewitness News his office has taken action against more than 50 other companies that he said have been running foreclosure scams.

He said it's illegal to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure help.

North Carolinians who are facing foreclosure can call the Hope Hotline toll-free at 888-995-hope 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive free counseling on options to avoid foreclosure.

Click here for more tips about foreclosure


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