California homeowners need to beware of phone, mail or personal solicitations from scam artists offering assistance related to the recent national mortgage settlement. The California Attorney General’s office has issued a warning about this latest scam and REALTORS® are passing on the warning to their clients.

The national mortgage settlement reached last month by 49 state attorneys general and the federal government with five of the largest loan servicers – Bank of America/Countrywide, JPMorgan Chase/Washington Mutual, GMAC Mortgage/Ally Financial, Citibank/CitiMortgage and Wells Fargo/Wachovia provides as much as $25 billion in relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government. The agreement settles state and federal findings that the country’s five largest loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct. The settlement provides benefits to borrowers whose loans are owned by these banks and to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.

Third parties claiming to offer homeowners access to funds under the national mortgage settlement are likely running a scam. Homeowners receiving such solicitations should not provide any personal or financial information and should report the solicitation to the California Department of Justice or file a complained online at http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=CL.

“Scam artists are preying on the vulnerability of desperate homeowners. Their goal is to make a quick profit through fees for services they claim they can do,” said Suzanne Yost, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®.

Californians seeking relief under the state’s $18 billion mortgage settlement are advised to follow these tips to avoid falling prey to such scams:

  • Be skeptical of third party phone solicitations. Only your bank/loan servicer can assist you with regard to the recent national mortgage settlement.
  • Do not give your personal financial information to a solicitor such as your bank account number, social security number or even the name of your loan servicer. Your bank will already have this information.
  • Never pay an up-front fee for mortgage-related services. It is against California law and should be reported to the California Department of Justice.

If you think you may be eligible for relief under the national mortgage settlement, call your bank directly. For additional information regarding the mortgage settlement, please visit: http://oag.ca.gov/nationalmortgagesettlement and http://oag.ca.gov/nationalmortgagesettlement/faqs

For free, trustworthy advice, homeowners may also call a HUD approved counselor at (888) 995-4673, or call Keep Your Home CA at (888) 954-5337.

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