Freddie Mac continues to implore people in arrears on their mortgage to call their loan servicer or a local financial counselor and explore workout options. Dwight Robinson, senior vice president of Freddie Mac's Corporate Relations & Housing Outreach division, said homeowners in danger of losing their home must educate themselves about potential alternatives to foreclosure. Further, distressed borrowers need to be especially aware of so-called mortgage relief companies and possible scams that he outlines for "anyone attracted by patriotically decorated ads from for-profit companies that promise to fix delinquent mortgages and keep you out of foreclosure for an upfront fee," Robinson said in a blog post Monday. Freddie Mac and its servicers helped 275,000 families stave off foreclosure through loan modifications in 2010, which is double the amount of borrowers helped the prior year, according to Robinson. "Bottom line – it pays to call your servicer," he said. "Second, do your homework before paying money to a mortgage relief company." Last fall, Freddie Mac Chief Executive Charles "Ed" Haldeman Jr. told HousingWire the government-sponsored enterprise prefers lenders or servicers use a mortgage forbearance program in an attempt to keep borrowers from foreclosure. He said a six-month forbearance plan allows people to keep a sense of normalcy while trying to become current on their mortgage. Robinson said the GSE's CreditSmart program teaches responsible borrowing by helping consumers spot and avoid credit traps and foreclosure rescue scams. He said a new rule from the Federal Trade Commission should help consumers by requiring mortgage rescue firms to disclose that a borrower's servicer has not approved the company to offer assistance and that the servicer does not have to approve any loan modification put forth by the rescue firm. The rule also prohibits mortgage relief companies from telling borrowers to stop communicating with their servicers. "This is aimed at curbing another common tactic, in which borrowers are told to send their mortgage payments to the mortgage relief company instead of their lendera practice that many times puts the borrower in greater jeopardy of losing their home," Robinson said. Write to Jason Philyaw.