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Miami residents struggling to stay above water with their finances may glean some useful information from these common consumer questions. Read on if you are considering a mortgage modification.

— Should you stop paying the mortgage to qualify for a loan modification? No. Companies who advise this should be avoided.

— What are foreclosure “rescue” scams? Scammers purportedly are attempting to save a consumer’s property from being foreclosed upon, but actually steal the property and any equity.

— How do the scams work? There are several variations, but the most common consist of:

— Foreclosure prevention specialists. They may bill themselves as financial counselors, but don’t offer anything but exorbitant bills for services consumers can legitimately access for free.

— False bailouts. Consumers are falsely told that they will be able to lease or rent their property and eventually repurchase it from the new owners.

— Bait and switch. Homeowners believe they are signing new mortgage contracts, but actually sign over the deeds to their properties.

— Lease/buy backs. Homeowners get tricked into signing over the deeds to their properties, thus allowing the scammers the legal right to do as they choose with the property.

— Phantom assistance. Why pay high rates to allow others to do what consumers can do themselves for free?

There are some red flags indicating that the modification proposals are actually scams. Companies that demand fees be paid before services are rendered should not be trusted. Neither should companies that promise they can save your property from foreclosure or reduced the interest rate. Instead, call the Florida Attorney General Hotline to verify the company and ask if complaints have been filed against it.

Consumers should only seek advice and assistance from legitimate companies. If debts have become completely unmanageable, it may be time to consult a Florida legal professional about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

Source: Florida Attorney General, “Mortgage Fraud – FAQs” accessed Jan. 29, 2015