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Foreclosure provides opportunity for scammers to exploit

Many New Yorkers do not have a solid understanding of the foreclosure process. This means that if homeowners receive a foreclosure notice or find themselves dealing with difficult financial circumstances--such as unemployment--that could lead to foreclosure, they often do not know what to do or how to respond. Many people are unaware that there are a range of legal solutions that could provide valuable assistance and may instead fall prey to unscrupulous businesses or organizations seeking to take advantage of struggling homeowners.

After investigating data related to homeowners and foreclosure, the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law discovered that foreclosure-related scams are common and cost households facing foreclosure an average of over $4,100. In response to this problem, which has cost New Yorkers collectively $8 million, the Attorney General recently created an app that intends to protect homeowners by providing them access to clear and accurate information regarding government approval--or lack thereof--of companies that describe themselves as foreclosure-prevention assistance companies. The app also provides an easy way for homeowners to report companies or organizations that they suspect are running foreclosure-related scams.

Foreclosures throughout New York and across the country have resulted for many different reasons. Some are due to the economic downturn and its lingering effects, even after the economy improved. Others are due to unforeseen circumstances like job loss, unexpected illness or other catastrophic situations. And many others are due to the actions of banks and other companies that can only be described as predatory lending tactics.

Although receiving a foreclosure notice is often shocking and stressful, homeowners who find themselves in this situation should understand that the situation is not hopeless. Homeowners who do not understand the process or have questions about a foreclosure notice should not hesitate to contact a reputable attorney experienced with foreclosure defense instead of relying on businesses or purported organizations that claim to provide assistance but aim only to exploit instead. By working with an experienced attorney, homeowners will be better prepared to answer the foreclosure complaint and hold the banks accountable for proving every element of their foreclosure case, actions which could--in many cases--ultimately prevent foreclosure.

Source: New York Post, "Attorney General's new app alerts homeowners of foreclosure scams," Catherine Curan, Dec. 7, 2014

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