SIGTARP closes more alleged online mortgage modification scams
The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program shut down more alleged online mortgage modification scams that charge borrowers an upfront fee for a workout that never comes. Last week, with help from Google (GOOG), SIGTARP closed 85 alleged scams that advertised on the search engine. Microsoft (MSFT), which powers the Yahoo! (YHOO) and Bing browsers helped SIGTARP close another 40 schemes since. Microsoft also suspended more than 400 Internet advertisers associated with the scam. Another 125 scams identified by SIGTARP were blocked permanently. Google suspended 500 advertisers. "Many homeowners who have fallen prey to these scams were enticed by Web banner ads and online search advertisements that promised, for a fee, to help lower mortgage payments," said Christy Romero, deputy Special Inspector General for TARP. "SIGTARP's work in cutting off these Internet advertisements will immediately and dramatically decrease the scope and scale of these scams by limiting their ability to seek out and victimize struggling homeowners." SIGTARP and agents of the Treasury Department have been working to uncover the online operations for some time and notified Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google about the list of alleged scams. The alleged scammers, SIGTARP found, would promise troubled homeowners a modification in exchange for an upfront fee then advised the borrower to stop paying their mortgage and cease all contact with the lender. Mortgage payments as well as the transfer of property deeds were often diverted to the alleged fraudulent modification firms, according to SIGTARP. In some cases the questionable websites would claim to have an affiliation with the federal government. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.