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Federal agencies form task force to fight HAMP fraud

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Three federal groups are launching a task force to fight scam artists who falsely claim they can save mortgages through the government's Home Affordable Modification Program. The task force is a joint effort between the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of the Treasury. The goal of the task force is to educate vulnerable homeowners about the insidious presence of scams in the marketplace, while also investigating and shutting down the scams as they surface. The joint task force issued a consumer fraud alert Thursday, advising borrowers who are eligible for HAMP to remember their mortgage servicer is the only party with the discretion to grant a loan modification. Furthermore, a third party promising to guarantee a loan mod or pre-approve a modification are possibly engaged in a scam, the report says. In addition, the alert says it's illegal in most cases for fees to be charged in advance of a loan modification. Furthermore, the task force claims paying a third party to assist with a HAMP application does not improve one's likelihood of obtaining a HAMP modification. The task force says homeowners also should "beware of individuals or companies that ask you for payment and tout success rates or claim to be experts in HAMP." The task force urges homeowners to check up on companies or individuals who display HAMP seals or logos to verify their validity. Borrowers can check out credentials by calling the HOPE hotline at 888-995-HOPE. Other warning signs of a HAMP scam include offers of money-back guarantees and instructions insisting a borrower should stop making a mortgage payment or should delay contacting their mortgage servicer. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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