Published — February 24, 2010 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Consumer complaints soar on mortgage ‘rescue’ schemes

FTC consumer chief to fraudsters: ‘I want to put you in jail’


As many Americans sank deeper into financial trouble last year, a record number reported that they fell victim to schemes seeking to profit from their misfortune, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

Complaints data collected by the Federal Trade Commission from several U.S. law enforcement agencies show that distressed homeowners became particularly vulnerable to fraudulent practices by individuals or companies promising financial “rescue.” Companies that, for instance, offer mortgage modifications or foreclosure relief programs generated nearly 8,000 complaints in 2009. Only one such complaint was officially recorded in 2008. The numbers are an indication of a much larger problem, since only a fraction of victims file formal complaints.

“These people are desperate and are unfortunately the perfect target for a scammer who has no conscience and is trying to take the last dollar out of these people’s wallets,” said David Vladeck, the FTC’s director of consumer protection.

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund is documenting these schemes in our ongoing series, Hard Times Profiteers. We are compiling your stories of real estate schemes and your photos of come-ons advertised on roadside signs.

The FTC collected more than 1.3 million complaints of all kinds last year, up from 1.2 million in 2008. Consumers reported losing more than $1.7 billion from fraud and various other schemes, with the largest concentration of complaints coming from Nevada and Colorado.

The complaints were not limited to mortgage swindles. This year, the most commonly reported problem was identity theft.

But as people increasingly lost their jobs and fell behind on mortgage payments last year, some of the most striking spikes in complaints related to credit schemes. Between 2008 and 2009, complaints about companies that offer advance-fee loans and promise to repair bad credit more than doubled to 41,448. “Debt management” and “credit counseling” complaints also doubled.

The FTC, the U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general have accused — and are prosecuting — dozens of companies for fraudulently using the recession to victimize consumers.

Now the FTC is paying particular attention to mortgage schemes. The sudden leap in consumer complaints is in part attributable to hundreds of “rescue” companies that launched last year after the Obama administration created a government-subsidized loan modification program.

Logistical problems have plagued the administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which has produced only 116,000 permanent mortgage modifications. In turn, many homeowners have turned to fly-by-night companies for help, analysts say.

“Fundamentally they’re a product of a broken system,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “As long as people are desperate to save their homes, and don’t have a good alternative, these guys are going to find a way to cheat them.”

Although some businesses offer legitimate loan modification services, the FTC has proposed a new rule that would prohibit companies from charging consumers up-front fees, a move that will probably “drive a lot of these scammers out of this business,” Vladeck said. The agency, which can bring civil but not criminal court cases, has identified about 500 companies that currently charge advance fees.

Through its “Operation Loan Lies,” the agency has sued about 30 companies accused of operating bogus loan modification or foreclosure rescue businesses.

Ultimately, Vladeck hopes these cases will encourage the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against mortgage schemers.

“I want to shut you down,” Vladeck said of the schemers. “I want to take every penny you have and I want to send you to jail.”

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Bob FrankstonLinda GordonET69Jello Beyoncesam fetters Recent comment authors
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sam fetters
sam fetters

What do AT&T, Verizon and Crown Castle International Corp have in common? The largest institutional shareholders of each includes firms like: Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street (the “Big Three”), Invesco, Fidelity (FMR), JP Morgan, Wellington Management, Geode, T Rowe Price, Bank of America, and other of the largest money-management and investment firms, whom operate collaboratively (even comprising the largest shareholders of each other), forming virtual monopolies amongst the largest “competing” corporations, in most every single industry, via large share holdings. (source = These are the same firms whom also largely own the third largest telecom, T-Mobile. The own the largest… Read more »

Jello Beyonce
Jello Beyonce

I’ve a theory that the supposed “Trade Wars” and “sanctions” and political/military strife going on between the U.S., China, Russia, etc. are merely distractions, serving to divert attention away from the growing authoritarianism and Oligarchic control spreading across the globe. “Nationalism” is being used as a propagandist covert means of continued increasing Globalism. As this article states: “A Russian woman stood up to speak at one of these public meetings, and she said that when she lived in Russia, the government slam dunked her and she had no say,” King said. “Now she lives in the United States of America,… Read more »


Marx was right about capitalism . Capital gets more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. There is no way out of this greed. We need socialism!

Linda Gordon
Linda Gordon

5g is a kill grid. The depployment of this weapon is an act of terroism genocide and ecocide. The marketers need to be jailed as terrorists.

Bob Frankston

The real issue with 5G is that it’s an attempt to roll back the Internet and return to the telecom of the 1970s when the phone company controlled all.