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FTC takes action against 3 companies

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

REAL ESTATE REPORT

LAUREN BUNTING ¦ Contributing Writer

(Oct. 12, 2012) In a news release this week, the Federal Trade Commission stated that it filed three separate suits in federal court to halt the allegedly deceptive tactics of three operations that preyed on distressed homeowners by falsely claiming they could save their homes from foreclosure, and then charging them thousands of dollars up front, while delivering little or no help and often driving them deeper into debt.

The three companies that had lawsuits filed against them were Prime Legal Plans/Reaching U Network, American Mortgage Consulting Group and Expense Management America.

In November 2010, the FTC issued the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, which provided new protections and banned mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification services from collecting fees until homeowners have a written offer from their lender or servicer that they deem acceptable. In all three situations, the companies were in violation of this FTC MARS Rule.

In one case, the company was falsely claiming to be a “private charity working for struggling consumers that can’t afford legal representation” and charged up to $750 a month, while little or nothing was done to save their homes from foreclosure. In another, the company claimed a phony affiliation with the U.S. Government, pretended to be attorneys and promised to substantially lower monthly mortgage payments in exchange for an upfront fee ranging from $1,495 to $4,495.

“With many homeowners still struggling to hold onto their homes, the FTC takes a hard line against con artists who are seeking their next victim,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Struggling homeowners can visit a reputable source for information and guidance through the state by calling the Maryland HOPE hotline at 877-462-7555 or by visiting their Web site at mdhope.dhcd.maryland.gov/.

— Lauren Bunting is a member of the Coastal Association of Realtors and a licensed REALTOR® with Bunting Realty, Inc. in Berlin.

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