Calif. AG Targets Foreclosure 'Consultants'
As California eyes sweeping statewide mortgage lending reform legislation, California attorney general Edmund Brown Jr. this week began cracking down on fraudulent activity on another end of the mortgage process--default and foreclosure. Brown issued a directive requiring that "foreclosure consultants" claiming to offer relief for troubled borrowers register with his office and make themselves liable for up to $100,000 in potential damages by July 1 in order to receive a certificate to lawfully operate in the state. Any consultants who violate state law in failing to register may face jail time up to one year and fines up to $25,000, according to a statement from Brown's office. Additionally, a court may order restitution to victims from proceeds from the consultant's $100,000 bond. "California is awash with con artists who prey on vulnerable families facing foreclosure," Brown said. "By forcing foreclosure consultants to submit detailed information to my office and post a $100,000 bond, this registry will help bring long-overdue transparency to this shadowy world." The announcement marks the latest effort to crack down on fraudulent and costly foreclosure prevention scams. Brown's office alone has seen scam artists charging huge up-front costs and directing future payments to personal accounts rather than to borrowers' lenders. The registry of the consultants' names, contact information and documentation of contracts offered to consumers is geared to keep consultants honest and help Brown's office track suspicious operations. Write to Diana Golobay.