HARP 2 launches, Better Business Bureau warns of scams
For awhile, we had to endure a bunch of Internet chatter from scam artists promising to tap into stimulus money from the government and offer “personal bailouts” to consumers (for a fee, of course). We’ve seen bogus credit counseling schemes, mortgage refinancing scams and, well, just a number of things floated out there people wanting to take consumers’ hard earned cash and give them nothing in return.
At the first of December, the revised Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP 2) went live through several national and local lenders and the scammers jumped on it almost immediately. HARP 2, of course, is an expanded version of the original HARP program that was introduced a couple of years ago to help homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth and are having trouble making their mortgage payments.
HARP 2 was put together to help more people qualify for refinancing their mortgages under the program. HARP is for homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas has released general guidelines for HARP 2 eligibility in this column a couple of times and interested homeowners can see if they qualify for refinancing under the program by visiting www.makinghomeaffordable.gov or by picking up the phone and calling 888-995-HOPE (4673).
At any rate, the national Better Business Bureau started reporting scams cropping up across the nation as soon as HARP 2 help was available. A good number of those scammers are simply spamming people with unwanted email and the Bureau reports Websites promising help – and offering nothing of substance – have become alarmingly common.
The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona has issued some tips that make sense for anyone trying to figure out if an organization promising HARP 2 relief:
? Deal directly with your lender first, and never make payments to anyone other than your lender. We can’t emphasize this first point enough – your lender should always be the first point of contact for anything having to do with your mortgage. If help is available, the chances are good your lender will know about it.
? Don’t pay upfront fees to anyone who promises to provide counseling, takes care of the paperwork for you, or stops the foreclosure process.
? Be wary of anyone who tells you not to contact your lender, a lawyer or a credit counselor, or who asks for payment by cashier’s check or wire transfer.
Never sign over your deed to anyone, or allow yourself to be pressured into signing something you don’t understand.
? Be especially careful of look-alike and sound-alike websites.
If you happen to run across a scam, you could help out some other consumers who might be taken in getting in touch with the Bureau at bbb.org/us/scam-source and reporting the scammer.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.