Troubleshooter: Mortgage help

October 27, 2009 9:00:00 PM PDT
Dorothy Sciarabba was looking for help. With her husband unemployed, and struggling to their mortgage, she heard an advertisement on TV for a load modification through a company called AmeriMod."They asked us for a $2,000 fee to help us modify loan," said Sciarabba.

So she sent in her two thousand dollars.

"They told us it would be a three to four month process if we sent all the paperwork. We needed bank statements, W2s, and all tax statements. They could help us," Sciarabba recalled.

Months went by and Sciarabba says she heard nothing. After many phone calls, she says she requested a refund from AmeriMod.

"I did that August 7th and here it is October and we still haven't heard from them," said Sciarabba.

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson got in touch with the former director of operations of AmeriMod and he said he had no problem giving Sciarabba a refund, but their funds are frozen. The reason? In August, the New York Attorney General's office filed suit against AmeriMod for allegedly engaging in deceptive business practices and false advertising when it comes to offering help to homeowners on the brink of foreclosure.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says consumers need to watch out for companies that offer mortgage relief.

"They know we're out there encouraging people to get help so they come in and offer it. The problem is it's not really help. They're trying to take your money and not do anything for you," Cooper explained.

Cooper said Sciarabba's $2,000 up front payment to AmeriMod is not allowed.

"We pushed through a law that makes it illegal to take any money up front to help with foreclosure assistance," he said.

Sciarabba didn't know that at the time. Now, she's out $2,000 and even closer to losing her home.

"I just hope no one else falls in the same pitfall," she said.

Sciarabba could potentially get a refund, as that is part of the lawsuit.

Cooper said complaints about similar companies are up in North Carolina. Last year there were about 80. This year, it's already more than 250.

The Attorney General advises that consumers don't fall for big promises or pay money up front.

For free counseling on options to avoid foreclosure, North Carolina homeowners can call a toll-free hotline set up by the NC Commissioner of Banks' Office. The hotline, 1-866-234-4857, is available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Also if you think you have fallen victim to a foreclosure help/rescue modification scam contact the NC Attorney General's Office at www.ncdoj.gov or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

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