In Denver, Colorado, The Denver Post
- The Colorado Division of Real Estate has issued subpoenas to 13 mortgage loan-modification companies in Colorado, California and Arizona.(1) "Our concern is that there appear to be fly-by-night operations that are soliciting Colorado consumers who appear to be in trouble," said Erin Toll, director of the division. [...] "This is a brand-new cottage industry. These loan-modification companies are springing up like wildfire."(2)
- Toll said many solicitations are misleading. At the top of one company's solicitation is "Notice & Demand" in large type, making it appear to be an official document. Some solicitations appear to be from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development until the small print at the bottom of the page. "What we're hearing from consumers is they feel threatened when they get these notices," Toll said.(3)
Toll added that it's illegal even to solicit Colorado residents for loan modifications without being a state-licensed mortgage broker.
For more, see Loan-modification firms subpoenaed.
For story update (12-19-08), see The Denver Post: 3 more loan-modification firms subpoenaed (All are based in California. Such companies may be preying on desperate homeowners).
(1) According to the story, among the paperwork the division wants are documents used for marketing to Colorado consumers; lists of borrowers who have attempted loan modifications and the status of their cases; bank statements; copies of checks; and lists of mortgage lenders or mortgage services the companies have worked with.
(2) Problems occur, Toll said, when the companies or individuals charge large up-front costs, usually one month's mortgage payment, plus a fee of several hundred dollars, then fail to return the borrowers' money when they are unable to renegotiate the loan.
(3) Using written communications that simulate either official court documents, or documents issued by a Federal or state government agency, for the purpose of extracting money from a consumer are the types of deceptive practices that have been declared illegal when done in the debt collection context. See Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, § 807(9), § 807(13). The false representation or implication that a company is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State has also been declared to be an illegal practice in the debt collection context. FDCPA, § 807(1). It sounds to me that some of the loan modification people using these types of deceptive practices may be grifters formerly in the debt collection industry who have simply "grifted" into a new line of work.