State regulators ban 15 foreclosure rescue firms

Posted July 07, 2009, at 9:34 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State regulators on Tuesday ordered 15 foreclosure rescue companies to cease doing business with Maine consumers. According to a statement from the state Bureau of Consumer Credit, the companies, all headquartered out of state, enticed consumers with radio, television and Internet advertisements promising to help them avoid foreclosure. The companies then took the consumers’ advance fees and did nothing to assist them, the bureau said.

“Many debt management companies comply with the law and become licensed and bonded for the protection of consumers,” said Will Lund, superintendent of the bureau. “These 15 companies made false promises and then took money from desperate folks who could least afford to lose those funds.”

Collectively, the companies took $36,000 in advance fees from 30 Maine households, but have not saved a single home in the state from foreclosure or reduced a single debt for a Mainer, Lund said. The companies have ignored all communications from state regulators, he said.

“These companies prey on desperate people that are already facing severe economic hardship,” said David Stolt, chief field investigator for the bureau. “They imply that they can save you and your home from foreclosure, and that for a fee they will get your lender to modify your mortgage loan. These advertisements are very slick, very convincing and very deceptive.”

The companies cited are:

• Federal Loan Modification Law Center, Irvine, Calif.

• United Hope Alliance Corp., Jacksonville, Fla.

• National Foreclosure Counseling Services, Jacksonville, Fla.

• Hope Now Modifications, Cherry Hill, N.J.

• Pathway Financial Management, Stanton, Calif.

• Law Offices of Joel L. Schwartz, Northfield, N.J.

• BillsMadeSimple.com Inc., San Diego, Calif.

• Lewis Foreclosure Mediation Services, LLC; Phoenix, Ariz.

• Apply 2 Save Inc., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

• HelpModifyNow.com, Newport Beach, Calif.

• Ocean View Investment Services Co., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

• FHA All Day., Boca Raton, Fla.

• Mason Capital Group LLC, Encino, Calif.

• The Hall Firm, New York, N.Y.

• Fresh Start Mortgage Assistance Solutions, Beverly Hills, Calif., and Clearwater, Fla.

An Internet search on several of the companies revealed a number of consumer complaints and official actions taken against them, including sanctions by the Federal Trade Commission and poor rankings from the Better Business Bureau.

“Maine consumers should do business only with licensed and bonded companies,” Stolt said. “That way, if a consumer’s funds are lost due to a violation of law, the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection can [recover] the consumer’s money from the surety bond.”

A list of 39 Maine-licensed and bonded debt management companies can be found online at www.Credit.Maine.gov under “Rosters” and then “Debt Management Service Providers.”

Consumers who have lost funds to unlicensed companies can file a complaint electronically with the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection or download a paper complaint for mailing at the Web site. They also may call 800-332-8529 with questions.

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