Five tips to guide people facing home foreclosure

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By Deb Kallen, Communications Assistant

With the current unemployment rate at 9.4 percent, it comes as no surprise that the data from January through May of 2011 shows 8,857 Oregon homes are currently in foreclosure. This data comes from RealtyTrac, a foreclosure data service.

While there’s no easy fix for home owners who’ve lost jobs and can’t afford their mortgage payments, here are a few pieces of advice from the Oregon Attorney General’s office (DOJ) to help families make the best of a bad situation:

  1. Get help right away. Some home owners are able to get a forbearance or loan modification. For free counseling or assistance contacting a mortgage company, call 1-888-995-HOPE or visit www.hopenow.com. To get general information for homeowners facing foreclosure, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s mortgage website.
     
  2. Only work with a HUD-approved counselor. There are scammers out there who prey on people whose homes are in foreclosure. They may contact home owners by mail, phone, online or in person, and sometimes try to appear associated with a lender or the government. After asking the counselor if their agency is HUD-approved, double check by visiting the HUD website or calling 1-877-483-1515.
     
  3. Never agree to pay up-front fees for foreclosure counseling. Up-front fees are illegal under Oregon law. Charging excessive up-front fees is one of the most common foreclosure relief scams.
     
  4. Keep records. Note the time and day of phone calls and the name of the mortgage representative. Make copies of every document signed or provided to the lender during the loan modification process. Write down the confirmation number and dates of every transaction. If problems develop, that information will help in reaching a resolution.
     
  5. Don't get scammed. Those who are facing foreclosure are particularly vulnerable to scams. That is why the Oregon Department of Justice aggressively pursues mortgage and foreclosure fraud. Mortgage-related scams can include phony offers of counseling or help, cons where homeowners unknowingly sign away their home, and lease-to-own schemes where a scammer purports to sell a house and pockets all the payments. Learn to spot the signs of a scam .

If a home owner has any suspicion he has been victimized, or wants to notify the DOJ about an individual, company or agency that may be engaging in mortgage or foreclosure rescue scams, complete a Consumer Complaint Form or call the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392.