New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is expanding his investigation into mortgage rescue companies. Cuomo’s office originally sent out 182 cease-and-desist letters to firms that claim to be mortgage rescue companies last week. On Monday, he sent out an additional 31 letters. Since early 2009, Cuomo's office has been conducting a nationwide investigation into the "foreclosure rescue" industry.  The investigation is in response to allegations that some of these companies unlawfully manipulate, mislead and defraud consumers through a variety of illegal tactics, resulting in delinquent mortgage payments and an increased threat of foreclosure. Such companies typically promise that they will negotiate with the homeowners' banks to lower mortgage interest rates, lock in fixed rates, get late fees and past due payments forgiven, and even reduce principal balances, Cuomo's office said. Cuomo said many of the companies fail to deliver, charge illegal, upfront fees and use misleading advertising to lure consumers.  The AG’s office said it is also addressing "equity-stripping" and "sale-leaseback" schemes. The attorney general’s cease-and-desist letters warn mortgage rescue companies to end any illegal, deceptive and misleading practices, including:
  • Charging up-front fees for consulting services;
  • Failing to enter into written contracts with homeowners, in the language the homeowners use, that fully disclose the exact nature of, and fees for, the services to be provided;
  • Failing to allow homeowners to cancel their contract, without any penalty, within five business days after signing
As of May, there were 64,778 foreclosed properties in New York, or one in every 1,982 housing units had received notice of foreclosure, according to the AG’s office. Write to Kerry Curry.