Homeowners desperate to fend off foreclosure should watch out for companies offering mortgage modifications they can't deliver, the Commerce Department advised Thursday.
A Michigan company called Save My Home USA was recently told to stop doing business in Minnesota after the department found it had defrauded 118 Minnesotans out of nearly $300,000 with false promises of reducing their mortgage payments.
Last month, the agency slapped a $10,000 fine on two California companies after they collected $12,000 from Minnesotans and provided no "meaningful assistance." In another recent action, Todd Jacobson and his company, LMS and Associates of St. Louis Park, were fined $100,000 for offering loan modifications and other foreclosure-related services without a license and using deceptive tactics.
Save My Home USA of Madison Heights, Mich., could face even higher fines, based on the unlicensed activities uncovered by the Commerce Department. The company and its owners, Jason McCallum, Justin McCallum and Chad Buchanan, ignored subpoenas sent in August, changed their phone numbers and no longer appear to be doing business in Minnesota, the agency said.
Customers told Commerce investigators that they paid up to $3,995 to negotiate lower mortgage payments. Just one of 23 customers interviewed by investigators said they actually got a modification.
Dottie Lipe of Winsted, Minn., said she gave $2,000 to Save My Home USA in 2009. "We were talking to them for about three months. All of a sudden they disappeared," Lipe said. Her home is scheduled to be auctioned at a sheriff's sale this month, she said.
Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman urged consumers to contact the Commerce Department (651-296-2488) if they think they've been victimized.
Kari Rudd, a lawyer with the Foreclosure Relief Law Project, recommended that homeowners seeking a way to avoid foreclosure contact the Minnesota Home Ownership Center (651-659-9336), which can refer them to foreclosure counselors and other resources.