This is a “heads up” in case you, or someone you know, has been the victim of a recent nationwide mortgage assistance scam.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint in U.S. District Court and successfully obtained a court order to halt this scam that was directed at Spanish-speaking U.S. homeowners.

Before being stopped, this is how the scam operated. Telemarketers located in the Dominican Republic would call Spanish-speaking homeowners who were behind in their mortgage payments or facing foreclosure.  The scammers, speaking in Spanish, pretended to be in Chicago, voiced empathy for the situation facing the homeowner and claimed to be able to give the homeowner information about federal mortgage assistance programs.  The scammers claimed affiliation either with the homeowner’s lender or the federal government.

The scam is a particularly cruel one in these hard times.  The scammers told the homeowner that for a one-time advance fee ($995.00 to $1,500.00) they could arrange for a mortgage modification for the homeowner.  If they signed up, homeowners then got multiple forms to complete, asking them for extensive personal and financial information.  Those forms, with all that information, plus the advance fee went to the scammers.

What did the homeowners get?  The majority got nothing — no more communications, no mortgage adjustment and no assistance.  A few homeowners who reached one of the scammers were told that the mortgage adjustment process was underway but that they had to send in thousands more dollars for it to be finished.  The few homeowners who did get a mortgage adjustment could have had the same result for free if they had done it themselves.

The U.S. District Court order halts the illegal conduct and freezes the operation’s assets while the FTC continues to move forward with its case.

The FTC has named David F. Preiner as the defendant who allegedly owns and directs the 6 companies named in the complaint as the defendants.  Full details about the scam and additional information about ways to manage mortgages can be found at the FTC’s website (www.ftc.gov.; “FTC Action Halts Dominican Mortgage Assistance Scam that Allegedly Defrauded Spanish-Speaking U.S. Homeowners of More than $2 Million”).  The FTC’s mortgage guidance documents are in both English and Spanish.

Do check the website in case you, or someone you know, has been the target of this or a related mortgage assistance scam.