SIGTARP and Google Fight Mortgage Scammers

Thursday, November 17, 2011   /   by Justin Hoffmann

SIGTARP and Google Fight Mortgage Scammers

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) is vigilantly targeting mortgage and foreclosure rescue scammers that advertise online. SIGTARP announced Wednesday that it recently halted 85 online scams that promised to help homeowners pursue mortgage loan modifications.

Some scammers disguise themselves as government agencies by using government seals or adopting names that are similar to those of a government agency.

Scammers often ask homeowners for an upfront fee to help them pursue a modification through HAMP. They then advise the homeowner to discontinue his or her mortgage payments and terminate any contact with his or her lender.
Some scammers ask homeowners to send mortgage payments to the scammer instead of their servicers, and others lead unsuspecting homeowners to transfer their property deeds out of their name.

Other schemes solicit personal financial information from borrowers.

The first place many homeowners turn for help in lowering their mortgage is the Internet through online search engines, and thats precisely where they are being taken advantage of and targeted, said Christy Romero, Deputy Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Web ads that offer a false sense of hope may not be legitimate and can end up costing homeowners their home, she continued. SIGTARP is diligently working on every level to stop these frauds, to protect homeowners from being victimized, and to hold accountable criminals who defraud homeowners in connection with HAMP and other TARP programs.

Google has cooperated with SIGTARP in its investigation and since the discovery of the 85 mortgage fraud schemes, has suspended 500 advertisers.

SIGTARP, through an investigative inquiry, notified Google of a list of Web sites alleged to be fraudulently claiming to assist homeowners with the HAMP mortgage modification process, SIGTARP said in its announcement Wednesday.


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