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HUD launches mortgage-scam prevention campaign

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced the second phase of its mortgage-scam-prevention awareness campaign in Atlanta, said a HUD spokesman.

Joe Phillips said the campaign is entitled, “Know It. Avoid It. Report It.”

It is being rolled out during National Consumer Protection Week, which lasts until Saturday, March 10, he said. The campaign was created to educate people on both loan-modification-and foreclosure scams, as well as to inspire them to take action, he explained.

Phillips said HUD launched the program in Atlanta because its high foreclosure rates make it a magnet for scams and scammers.

“One should never have to pay for foreclosure counseling or assistance,” advised Ed Jennings, Jr., regional administrator for HUD in Atlanta.

“That’s why we need homeowners to be vigilant by seeking out HUD-approved housing counseling agencies to obtain help and avoid being scammed,” he said.

Atlanta has the fourth-highest-risk zip code for mortgage fraud in the country, and it has a 332-percent higher rate of this kind of scam than the national average, said Phillips.

The foreclosure crisis has caused millions of struggling homeowners to become targets of third-party scammers, con artists and thieves, he said. People with burdensome home loans have handed thousands of dollars to scammers who’ve promised mortgage relief, he explained.

These criminals make some homeowners believe they’re associated with government programs, he added, but they charge illegal up-front fees and offer fraudulent lease-back financing.

Last year, said the spokesman, HUD introduced the campaign to distressed homeowners in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, to teach them of the importance of using only HUD-approved agencies to save their homes.

To learn more about mortgage fraud, and report suspected criminals, call 1-888-995-HOPE, or visit: www.hud.gov/preventloanscams.