Treasury Awards $1.5 Billion through Recovery Act

5/27/2009 U.S. Treasury Department Press Release:

Treasury Awards $1.5 Billion through Recovery
Act to Encourage Private Sector
Investments in Communities around the Country

Awards Announced Under New Markets Tax Credit Program

BOSTON– Just 100 days since the President signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today announced $1.5 billion in New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) awards for 32 organizations throughout the country. With resources made possible through the Recovery Act, the NMTC Program injects private-sector capital investment into communities around the country to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and jumpstart the lending necessary for financial stability. The awardees announced today are planning investments in renewable energy projects, charter schools, health care facilities, manufacturing companies and retail centers.

“The Recovery Act was a crucial step toward restoring economic growth, getting Americans back to work, and strengthening our nation’s financial stability” said Secretary Geithner. “Many communities have been left with a shortfall of financial support and are unable to pursue desperately needed projects, leaving residents to fall even further behind. The New Markets Tax Credit program helps break that cycle by providing an incentive to invest in communities to break ground on new projects, create jobs, and offer much needed services.”

The 32 organizations receiving awards have identified principal service areas covering 33 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The NMTC Program, established by Congress in December 2000, permits individual and corporate taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making qualified equity investments in investment vehicles known as Community Development Entities (CDEs). The credit provided to the investor totals 39 percent of the cost of the investment and is claimed over a seven-year period. A majority of the taxpayer’s investment must in turn be used by the CDE to make qualified investments in low-income communities.

Secretary Geithner’s announcement was made today at Project Hope, a New Markets Tax Credit award recipient in Boston, MA. Secretary Geithner was joined by Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund Director Donna Gambrell. A division of the Department of Treasury, the CDFI Fund, administers the NMTC program.

“We are here today at Project Hope because it’s a shining example of how the New Markets Tax Credit can be utilized to transform communities and improve the quality of life for the local residents,” said CDFI Fund Director Donna J. Gambrell. “Through $4.8 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing, the center we are gathered at today is providing expanded adult education, job placement and career development services and is also Roxbury’s first certified green building.”

To date, close to $12 billion of private-sector capital has been invested through the NMTC Program into urban and rural communities throughout the country. Data reported through 2007 shows that $9 billion dollars of NMTC capital has been invested into approximately 2,000 businesses and real estate developments – helping to develop or rehabilitate over 68 million square feet of real estate, create 210,000 construction jobs, and create or maintain 45,000 full time equivalent jobs at businesses in low-income communities.

A complete list of the 32 organizations selected and additional information on the NMTC Program can be found on the CDFI Fund’s web site at: www.cdfifund.gov

REPORTS

If You're Struggling To Make Money Online - Click Here To Watch This Free Video And FINALLY Get Answers To All Of Your Questions About Making Money Online

Marketers Falsely Claimed to Operate MakingHomeAffordable.gov

5/18/2009 FTC Press Release:

Click here to go directly to the release on the FTC website (recommended).

FTC Obtains Court Order Halting Deceptive Mortgage Relief Internet Ads; Marketers Falsely Claimed to Operate MakingHomeAffordable.gov

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal district court issued an order to stop an Internet-based operation that pretends to operate “MakingHomeAffordable.gov,” the official Web site of the federal Making Home Affordable program for free mortgage loan assistance. The FTC alleged that the defendants deceptively diverted consumers who searched online for the free government assistance program to commercial Web sites that offer loan modification services for a fee.

“Homeowners who are down on their luck need help, not misdirection by Internet impostors,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “The Commission will continue to work with the Treasury Department to move quickly against scammers who prey upon financially distressed consumers.”

Earlier this year, in an effort to stabilize the housing market and ensure that responsible homeowners can afford to stay in their homes, President Obama announced the Making Home Affordable program to help eligible homeowners refinance or modify their mortgages. The plan will help millions of families restructure or refinance their mortgages to lower their monthly payments and make their mortgages affordable now and in the future. Using the resources on MakingHomeAffordable.gov, consumers in trouble with their mortgages can get help – at no cost – from trained housing counselors.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said, “On April 6th, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Attorney General Eric Holder, HUD Secretary Donovan and I announced a multi-agency effort to crack down on foreclosure rescue scams and loan modification fraud. Today’s swift enforcement action by the FTC demonstrates our strong commitment to protecting the integrity of the program by going after actors attempting to defraud or scam homeowners trying to use the makinghomeaffordable.gov site.”

Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which provided valuable assistance in the FTC’s investigation, said, “Frauds that target struggling homeowners will not go unanswered. Today’s action by the FTC, supported by the investigators of our office, demonstrates our joint resolve to stop in its tracks any individual or organization that attempts to fraudulently profit off of a national crisis.” Anyone who has been victimized in this matter should contact the FTC at 1-800-FTC-HELP. To report possible fraud in this or any other TARP-related program, complaints can also be filed at www.sigtarp.gov or 877-SIG-2009.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants purchased “sponsored links” for their advertising on the results pages of Internet search engines, including yahoo.com, msn.com, altavista.com and alltheweb.com. When consumers searched for “making home affordable” or similar search terms, the defendants’ ads prominently and conspicuously displayed the Web site address “makinghomeaffordable.gov.” Consumers who clicked on this advertised hyperlink were not directed to the official Web site for the Making Home Affordable program, but were diverted to Web sites that solicit applicants for paid loan modification services. These commercial Web sites, which are not part of or affiliated with the U.S. government, require consumers to enter personally identifying and confidential financial information. The operators of these Web sites either purport to offer loan modification services themselves or sell consumers’ personally identifying information to persons who sell such services.

The FTC filed an emergency request for a temporary restraining order on Friday, May 15, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Later that day, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly entered a temporary restraining order, barring the defendants from using the MakingHomeAffordable.gov hyperlink or representing that they are affiliated with the United States government. The order also requires the four search engine providers to identify those who paid them to place the ads, and to refuse to place paid ads that contain active hyperlinks that are labeled MakingHomeAffordable.gov or any other domain name containing “.gov.” The FTC’s complaint is against one or more persons who are unknown to the agency at this time because the defendants have cloaked their practices in the anonymity of the Internet.

The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 4-0.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

Media Contact:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs

202-326-2674
Staff Contact:
Lawrence Hodapp,
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3105

(FTC File No. 0923147)
(Making Home Affordable)

Click here for full FTC Release, supporting documentation and consumer information on how to avoid mortgage scams and foreclosure rescue scams.

If You're Struggling To Make Money Online - Click Here To Watch This Free Video And FINALLY Get Answers To All Of Your Questions About Making Money Online

OCC Consumer Tips for Avoiding Mortgage Modification Scams and Foreclosure Rescue Scams

United States Treasury Department Consumer Advisory:

Comptroller of the Currency
Administrator of National Banks

Washington, DC 20219

April 21, 2009

OCC Consumer Tips for Avoiding
Mortgage Modification Scams and Foreclosure Rescue Scams

Scams that promise to “rescue” you from foreclosure are popping up at an alarming rate nationwide, and you need to protect yourself and your home.

If you’re falling behind on your mortgage, others may know it, too — including con artists and scam artists. They know that people in these situations are vulnerable and often desperate. Potential victims are easy to find: mortgage lenders publish notices before foreclosing on homes. Private firms frequently compile and sell lists of these foreclosed properties and distressed borrowers. After reading these notices, con artists approach their targets in person, by mail, over the telephone, or by e-mail. They often advertise their services on television, radio, or the Web, and in newspapers, describing themselves as “foreclosure consultants” or “mortgage consultants,” offering “foreclosure prevention” or “foreclosure rescue” services. And they are only too happy to take advantage of homeowners who want to save their homes.

If someone offers to negotiate a loan modification for you or to stop or delay foreclosure for a fee, carefully check his or her credentials, reputation, and experience, watch out for warning signs of a scam, and always maintain personal contact with your lender and mortgage servicer. Your mortgage lender can help you find real options to avoid foreclosure. It is important to contact your mortgage lender early to preserve all your options. There are legitimate consumer financial counseling agencies that can help you work with your lender.

This Consumer Advisory, issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), describes common scams, suggests ways to protect yourself, provides information on U.S. government loan programs and counseling resources, and lists 10 warning signs of a mortgage modification scam.

Common Types of Scams

Here are some examples of scams related to mortgage modification and foreclosure avoidance.

  • Foreclosure “rescue” and refinance fraud. The scam artist offers to act as an intermediary between you and your lender to negotiate a repayment plan or loan modification and may even “guarantee” to save your home from foreclosure. You may be told to make mortgage payments to the scammer directly — along with significant, up-front fees — and be told that the scammer will forward the payments to your lender. In reality, the scammer may pocket your money and leave you in worse shape on your loan. The scam artist also may tell you to stop making payments or stop communicating with your lender. Don’t follow that advice.Remember that your mortgage lender should be the starting point for finding options to avoid foreclosure. You also should consider contacting qualified and approved credit counselor
  • Fake “government” modification programs. Unscrupulous people may claim to be affiliated with, or approved by, the government or may ask you to pay high up-front fees to qualify for government mortgage modification programs. While government-supported mortgage modification and refinancing initiatives are legitimate, the scam artists’ claims are not. Keep in mind that you do not have to pay to benefit from these government programs. All you need to do is contact your lender or loan servicer.The scam artist’s name or Web site may be very similar to those of government agencies. The scam artist may use such terms as “federal,” “TARP,” or other words or acronyms related to official U.S. government programs. These tactics are designed to fool you into thinking the scam artist is somehow approved by, or affiliated with, the government. The government is taking actions to stop this fraud, but you also need to protect yourself. So be wary of claims offering “government-approved” or “official government” loan modifications. Your lender will be able to tell you whether you qualify for any government initiatives to prevent foreclosure. You do not have to pay anyone to benefit from them.
  • Leaseback/rent-to-buy schemes. In this type of scam, you are asked to transfer the title to your home to the scammer, who will, supposedly, obtain new and better financing and/or allow you to remain in the home as a renter and eventually buy it back. If you do not comply with the terms of the rent-to-buy agreement, you will lose your money and face eviction. The agreement may be very hard to comply with, because it may require, for instance, high up-front and monthly payments that you may not be able to afford. In fact, the scammers may have no intention of ever selling the home back to you. They simply want your home and your money.Remember that transferring your title does not change your payment obligations — you will still owe your mortgage debt. The difference will be that you will no longer own your home. If payments are not made on the mortgage, your lender has the right to foreclose, and the foreclosure and any other problems will appear on your credit report.
  • Bankruptcy scams. You may have heard that filing bankruptcy will stop a foreclosure. This is true — but only temporarily. Filing bankruptcy brings an “automatic stay” into effect that stops any collection and foreclosure while the bankruptcy court administers the case. Eventually, you must start paying your mortgage lender, or the lender will be able to foreclose. Bankruptcy is rarely, if ever, a permanent solution to prevent foreclosure. In addition, bankruptcy will negatively impact your credit score and will remain on your credit report for 10 years.
  • Debt-elimination schemes. Scammers may claim to be able to “eliminate” your debt by making illegitimate legal arguments that you are not obligated to pay back your mortgage. These scammers will provide you with inaccurate claims about applicable laws and finance, such as that “secret laws” can be used to eliminate debt or that banks do not have the authority to lend money. Do not stop making payments on your mortgage based on their claims.

How to Protect Yourself from Mortgage Modification and Foreclosure Avoidance Scams

Always proceed with caution when dealing with anyone offering to help you modify your mortgage or avoid foreclosure. Remember that you do not need a third party to work with your lender — any such party should make the process easier, not harder and more expensive.

  • Contact your lender or mortgage servicer first. Speak with someone in the loss mitigation department for mortgage modification options and other alternatives to foreclosure.
  • Make all mortgage payments directly to your lender or to the mortgage servicer. Do not trust anyone to make mortgage payments for you, and do not stop making your payments.
  • Avoid paying up-front fees. While some legitimate housing counselors will charge small fees for their services, do not pay fees to anyone before receiving any services. Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
  • Know what you are signing. Read and understand every document you sign. Do not rely on an oral explanation of a document you are signing — make sure that you read and understand what the document actually says. Otherwise, a document may obligate you to terms you don’t want or may even convey ownership of your home to someone else. Never sign documents with blank spaces that can be filled in later. Never sign a document that contains errors or false statements, even if someone promises to correct them. If a document is too complex to understand, seek advice from a lawyer you trust or a legitimate, trusted financial counselor.
  • Do not sign over your deed without consulting a lawyer you select. Foreclosure scams often involve transfer of ownership of your home to a con artist or another third party. Never agree to this without getting the advice of your own lawyer, financial advisor, credit counselor, or other independent person you know you can trust. By signing over your deed, you lose the rights to your home and any equity built up in the home — and you are still obligated to pay the mortgage.
  • Get promises in writing. Oral promises and agreements relating to your home are usually not legally binding. Protect your rights with a written document or contract signed by the person making the promise. Keep copies of all contracts that you sign. Again, never sign anything you don’t understand.
  • Report suspicious activity to relevant federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, and to your state and local consumer protection agencies. Reporting con artists and suspicious schemes helps prevent others from becoming victims. If your complaint or question involves a national bank and you cannot resolve it directly with the bank, contact the OCC’s Customer Assistance Group by calling (800) 613-6743, by sending an e-mail to [email protected], or by visiting www.HelpWithMyBank.gov.
  • Contact a legitimate housing or financial counselor to help you work through your problems.
    • To find a counselor, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at (800) 569-4287 or (877) 483-1515, or go to www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hccprof14.cfm.
    • Call (888) 995-HOPE, the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline to reach a nonprofit, HUD-approved counselor through HOPE NOW, a cooperative effort of mortgage counselors and lenders to assist homeowners.
    • Visit NeighborWorks America’s Web site at www.nw.org/network/home.asp
  • Visit the following Web sites for further information:
  • Apply for a government-sponsored loan modification or refinancing. The U.S. government has developed a major loan modification and refinancing program to help homeowners find affordable loans and to save their homes.

Ten Warning Signs of a Mortgage Modification Scam

  1. “Pay us $1,000, and we’ll save your home.” Some legitimate housing counselors may charge small fees, but fees that amount to thousands of dollars are likely a sign of potential fraud — especially if they are charged up-front, before the “counselor” has done any work for you. Be wary of companies that require you to provide a cashier’s check or wire transfer before they take any action on your behalf.
  2. “I guarantee I will save your home – trust me.” Beware of guarantees that a person or company can stop foreclosure and allow you to remain in your house. Unrealistic promises are a sign that the person making them will not consider your particular circumstances and is unlikely to provide services that will actually help you.
  3. “Sign over your home, and we’ll let you stay in it.” Be very suspicious if someone offers to pay your mortgage and rent your home back to you in exchange for transferring title to your home. Signing over the deed to another person gives that person the power to evict you, raise your rent, or sell the house. Although you will no longer own your home, you still will be legally responsible for paying the mortgage on it.
  4. “Stop paying your mortgage.” Do not trust anyone who tells you to stop making payments to your lender and servicer, even if that person says it will be done for you.
  5. “If your lender calls, don’t talk to them.” Your lender should be your first point of contact for negotiating a repayment plan, modification, or short sale. It is vital to your interests to stay in close communication with your lender and servicer, so they understand your circumstances.
  6. “Your lender never had the legal authority to make a loan.” Do not listen to anyone who claims that “secret laws” or “secret information” will be used to eliminate your debt and have your mortgage contract declared invalid. These scammers use sham legal arguments to claim that you are not obligated to pay your mortgage. These arguments don’t work.
  7. “Just sign this now; we’ll fill in the blanks later.” Take the time to read and understand anything you sign. Never let anyone else fill out paperwork for you. Don’t let anyone pressure you into signing anything that you don’t agree with or understand.
  8. “Call 1-800-Fed-Loan.” This may be a scam. Some companies trick borrowers into believing that they are affiliated with or are approved by the government or tell you that you must pay them high fees to qualify for government loan modification programs. Keep in mind that you do not have to pay to participate in legitimate government programs. All you need to do is contact your lender to find out if you qualify.
  9. “File for bankruptcy and keep your home.” Filing bankruptcy only temporarily stops foreclosure. If your mortgage payments are not made, the bankruptcy court will eventually allow your lender to foreclose on your home. Be aware that some scammers will file bankruptcy in your name, without your knowledge, to temporarily stop foreclosure and make it seem as though they have negotiated a new payment agreement with your lender.
  10. “Why haven’t you replied to our offer? Do you want to live on the streets?” High-pressure tactics signal trouble. If someone continually contacts you and pressures you to work with them to stop foreclosure, do not work with that person. Legitimate housing counselors do not conduct business that way.

If You're Struggling To Make Money Online - Click Here To Watch This Free Video And FINALLY Get Answers To All Of Your Questions About Making Money Online