On March 12, FlagStar Lending will take Alyssa Fackler's Middleton home in foreclosure proceedings and sell it out from under her.
Fackler (not her real name) began working with MakingHomeAffordable.com in Costa Mesa, Calif., to stop the slide she was on in an upside down mortgage.
"I thought I was doing everything right and that Making Home Affordable was working with my lender to clear things up," she says.
Fackler sent nearly $16,000 since November to get caught up on her financial problems, but in return has been told that she needs to continue sending the mortgage coupon, in spite of the fact the bank says she's behind.
"I have everything ready to file my income tax return and I thought I would receive something showing interest paid on that amount so I could claim it for tax purposes for 2012," she says. "Nothing, except 'attached is the mortgage coupon for March.' "
Customers nationwide have turned to the Better Business Bureau, state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission with similar stories. The FTC has issued multiple warnings about loan modification and forensic audit scams. BBB registered nearly 600 complaints against loan modification companies in 2012.
Consumers who need help with their mortgage should consider the following tips:
Talk to your lender. Before paying an outside company to negotiate with your mortgage provider, try to get some relief yourself for free. Many companies will work with a consumer to avoid foreclosure.
Use a licensed company. Any business offering loan modification services must be licensed. Search the agent or company name in the National Mortgage Licensing System to ensure you are not dealing with a scammer.
Know where to turn. If you feel your mortgage provider is treating you unfairly, FTC also recommends consumers call 1-888-995-HOPE to get free personalized advice from housing counseling agencies certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Start with trust. Check out the company's BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.
Report fraud. If you have been scammed, report your experience to BBB, the FTC (www.ftc.gov); or the state attorney general at www.ag.idaho.gov and click on Consumer Protection.
Watch for red flags. The FTC lists several warning signs that a loan modification offer may be a scam, including:
Guarantees to stop the foreclosure process - no matter your circumstances.
Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer or credit or housing counselor.
Collects a fee before providing any services or accepts payment only by cashier's check or wire transfer.
Encourages you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time.
Recommends that you make your mortgage payments directly to loan modification company, rather than your lender.
Urges you to transfer your property deed or title to the company.
Offers to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is inappropriate for the housing market.
Pressures you to sign papers you haven't had a chance to read thoroughly or that you don't understand.
The BBB urges homeowners who feel they may be victims of mortgage loan modification fraud to contact the Department of Finance at (208) 332-8002.
"Mortgage modification companies, including short-sale negotiation service providers who don't have an Idaho real estate license, are required to be licensed with the department before offering their services in Idaho," says Gavin Gee, director of the Idaho Department of Finance. "Idaho law prohibits the charging of upfront fees prior to completion of a mortgage modification."
Fackler is working with a real estate agent to get her home sold before it moves into foreclosure.
Robb Hicken: 947-2115