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Avoid foreclosure-prevention scams: 3 tips

By Les Christie, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With mortgage delinquencies at an all-time high, there are lots of desperate homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure -- and tons of scam artists trying to take advantage of that.

The fraudsters promise the moon but rarely deliver any help.

In Times Square on Friday, the non-profit community development organization NeighborWorks launched a campaign to heighten awareness of foreclosure prevention scams.

"[For scam artists,] the all time high foreclosure rate is an opportunity in the same way that pushing toxic subprime loans was during the housing boom," said Bernell Grier, CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of New York (NHS), a NeighborWorks affiliate.

From October through the end of April, community development groups handled more than 10,000 reports of foreclosure-prevention scams, according to Susan Jouard, a spokeswoman for NHS.

Grier said alert consumers can identify fraud from legitimate help if they're aware of these three tell-tale signs.

Avoid anyone who:

Asks for a fee in advance. If you pay them these fees, which can range from $1,000 to as much as $5,000, that's probably the last you'll ever hear from them. Most never even go through the motions of talking to lenders and trying to work out modifications.

Tells you they can guarantee foreclosure will stop. Nobody can do that, especially before they find out more about your individual circumstances.

Urges you to stop paying your mortgage and pay them instead. They're trying to add to the money they already bilked you out of by keeping up the pretense of trying for a modification.

Many community groups, including those affiliated with NeighborWorks, offer expert, free help for homeowners, but they often don't have the funds to advertise their services. It's easier for the scammers to invest in fliers, mailers, even Internet and TV advertising to get their message out.

"Call us if you're having a problem with your property," said Grier. "You shouldn't have to pay for these services." To top of page

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