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So you’re down on your luck, lost your job three months ago and you still can’t find work. Unfortunately, the mortgage bills, credit card statements, overdraft notices, utility bills and grocery bills keep piling up and you’re not able to pay them.

Financial stress can bring you to your knees – especially when you’re in danger of losing your family home because, due to financial circumstances out of your control, you can’t afford your mortgage payments anymore.

Your home is the one possession your family needs most – not to mention the hard-won equity you’ve built up after years (or decades) of diligent payments – so it’s highly likely that you’ll do anything in order to keep it. Unfortunately, that makes you vulnerable to getting scammed.

How a mortgage relief scam usually works

It starts with a random call to your cellphone. You’re convinced it’s a telemarketer, but just before you hang up you hear the magic words, “I can help you negotiate a mortgage loan modification,” or “Is your home in foreclosure? I can help you negotiate a foreclosure relief deal with your bank.” If you’re not completely convinced, they’ll feed you a line about getting you a new loan, or getting you matched up with the perfect government program.

Once you’re convinced this scammer has the key to your financial salvation, the bad news comes. The scammer tells you the fee, which is admittedly pretty hefty, but doesn’t seem so bad considering everything you’re going to get – like the ability to save your family home. So you bust out the “emergency credit card” you’ve been saving, and you pay the scammer’s bill.

After months of waiting, and probably jumping through a few hoops and paying more fees for services, consumers are often surprised to find that the mortgage scammer didn’t deliver on any promises. In some cases, you still lose your home and all you’re left with is more debt from paying the scammer’s fees.

What you should watch out for

If you’re in foreclosure proceedings because you didn’t pay your mortgage, watch out for mortgage scammers. They will try to get you while you’re down and they are pros at convincing you that they have exactly what you need.

To avoid getting swindled, here’s what you need to watch out for:

  • Being asked to transfer the deed to your home to someone else
  • Claims that the mortgage assistant company has special access to special programs
  • High up-front fees that need to be paid before any services are received
  • Being asked to stop communicating with your mortgage lender
  • Has any of the above happened to you?

Mortgage relief scammers have been around for a long time, which is why in 2010 the Federal Trade Commission set up the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule. The rule prohibits mortgage relief companies from:

  • Requiring upfront fees
  • Billing customers before any financial relief has been received
  • Omitting crucial information that the customers require to make informed decisions

Here’s how to really protect your home

There are many legal strategies available to consumers facing debt problems and the threat of foreclosure. By speaking with a bankruptcy attorney, you’ll be in much better hands than talking to a mortgage relief scammer. An attorney is bound by law to act in your best interests no matter your circumstances.

With a Florida bankruptcy attorney on your side, you will be completely informed about different debt solutions – whether it is bankruptcy or not – that are available to people facing home foreclosure. Your attorney will also review your situation and advise you of the most appropriate next steps to take given the facts of your situation.

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