New FTC rule aimed at mortgage-relief scams
The Federal Trade Commission unveiled a new rule that bans companies from accepting fees for mortgage modifications before a homeowner's bank or loan servicer deems the services rendered acceptable. The consumer protection agency expects the new rule to guard against mortgage relief scams that have sprung up during the economic crisis of the past few years. More than 30 cases against operations like these have been brought to court by the FTC, which said state and federal law enforcement have filed hundreds more, as well. "At a time when many Americans are struggling to pay their mortgages, peddlers of so-called mortgage relief services have taken hundreds of millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of homeowners without ever delivering results," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "By banning providers of these services from collecting fees until the customer is satisfied with the results, this rule will protect consumers from being victimized by these scams." The FTC said bogus companies, many of which purport to be affiliated with federal housing assistance programs, claim to be able to negotiate better mortgage terms for a homeowner through loan modification, a short sale, or other relief from foreclosure. The new mandate also requires companies "remind consumers of their right to reject the offer without any charge." The rule also requires these companies to disclose information that consumers could misconstrue. Write to Jason Philyaw.