WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) - As thousands across the country continue to fight to keep their homes from foreclosure, a new wave of criminals is waiting to take advantage of those struggling to survive. Mortgage rescue scams, and loan modification fraud are at an all time high. In Washington D.C. Monday, several federal agencies announced a new plan targeting those preying on the vulnerable families.
Like so many in these desperate financial times, William and Nichole Levert felt like they were losing everything.
"(It was) a combination of me losing my job," said William Levert. "And us having a child."
Unable to pay the mortgage on their Seattle home, and fearing foreclosure, they did what thousands have done lately. They turned to a so-called "mortgage expert," only to discover the promise of help was actually a scam.
"They don't call your lender. They don't modify your loan, and they don't represent you in court if you're in foreclosure," said Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan. "All they do is take your money."
Federal agents have investigated more cases of fraud against homeowners in the first quarter of this year, than all of last year.
"It's immoral, and it's also illegal," said Tim Geithner, U.S. Treasury Secretary, who announced a multi-agency intiative to track down and take out those running mortgage rescue scams across the country.
"We will shut down fraudulent companies more quickly than before," said Geithner.
Officials stress, there is free help through the federal government for those fighting to keep their homes, but for the Levert family, the focus of investigators and promise of assistance comes too late.
"It's just really disheartening," said Levert. "It's really disheartening."
The Leverts lost $30,000 to the con, also their home and a piece of their heart.
"That's where our daughter crawled for the first time," said Nichole Levert. "(Where she) took the first step, learned to ride a bike and, you know, made their best friends."
It's the toll of this crime, that cannot be measured by money, and the main reason federal agents say they are stepping up their enforcement effort.
If you need help, or think you have been the victim of mortgage fraud, (click here) or call the Hope Hotline at (888) 995-HOPE (4673).
|The Better Business Bureau|