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Deadline is Monday for foreclosure review

Mortgage foreclosure scams are on the rise

With more than $3 billion in estimated losses nationwide last year, mortgage relief scams are at an all-time high.

With promises of a loan modification or relief from foreclosure, deficiency balances and negative credit, con artists seek out vulnerable homeowners. For an advance fee, many scammers claim they have connections within most major mortgage companies and will save the homeowner from losing their home on the courthouse steps.

Fraudsters use a variety of tactics to locate homeowners in distress. Some sift through public foreclosure notices in newspapers and on the Internet while others review public files at the local courthouse.

Some scammers are bold enough to claim affiliation with governmental agencies or programs through late night television commercials and fancy websites. In most cases, they make promises, take a struggling homeowners money and then fail to deliver.

Some Scams Currently in Circulation:

The Forensic Audit — In the forensic audit scam, a mortgage loan “auditor” contacts the distressed homeowner with an offer to have an “attorney” review mortgage loan documents to determine if the real estate agent and mortgage company followed the law when originating the transaction. In exchange for an advance fee of several hundred dollars, these companies claim that a homeowner can use their audit findings to stop foreclosure, speed loan modification, reduce mortgage debt or — in some cases — cancel the loan entirely. In the majority of cases, there is no evidence that a forensic loan audit will accomplish any of these things.

Rent–to–Buy Scheme — In the rent–to–buy scheme, homeowners are encouraged by a scammer to surrender title to their home while remaining in the home as a renter. The scammer claims that this will give the homeowner a better credit rating and more financial options when attempting to repurchase the home at a later date. What is not known to the homeowner is that the terms of the deal are so typically expensive that they will never be able to repurchase the home. In other instances, the scammer periodically raises the rent until the homeowner can no longer afford it and is subsequently evicted.

Mass Joinder Lawsuits — A recent twist on foreclosure rescue schemes involves mass joinder lawsuits — the joining of two or more legal issues that are sufficiently similar to be heard in one hearing. As part of this scam, distressed homeowners are solicited by a “specialized” law firm inviting them to participate in a mass joinder lawsuit as a way to obtain a loan modification or avoid foreclosure.

The law firms charge fees between several thousand dollars to over $10,000 and claim that they will join the case with other homeowners in similar circumstances to file suit against their mortgage lender.

Many of these scammers claim they can stop foreclosures, reduce loan balances or interest rates and even remove the debt from the home so that the homeowner is free and clear of their existing mortgage. In most cases, there is no attorney reviewing the homeowner’s case or the attorney of record is not licensed to practice in the state where the homeowner resides. Homeowners are often left in worse financial shape than when they started, with some losing their homes in foreclosure.

Loan Modification Scam — In the loan modification scam, a company contacts the homeowner promising to negotiate with their lender for an advance fee. In some cases, they claim to be mortgage brokers or attorneys. These scammers often advise the homeowner to stop talking to their mortgage company and to stop making monthly payments. In other instances, they advise the homeowner to make the mortgage payments directly to them while they deal with the lender. Once they have collected the money, these scammers stop returning phone calls and then disappear.

Know Your Rights — Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, it is illegal for a company to require payment until they provide you a written offer of loan modification or other relief from the mortgage lender AND the homeowner accepts the offer. Companies must also disclose that they are not affiliated with the government in their telemarketing calls and advertisements.

The company also cannot advise you to stop contacting your lender. They must tell you that your mortgage lender may not agree to modify the loan and that failure to pay your mortgage could result in the loss of your home or damage your credit rating. The company must also remind homeowners of their right to reject the offer without any charge.

Attorneys are generally exempt from the MARS Rule if they meet three conditions: they are engaged in the practice of law, they are licensed in the state where the homeowner or the dwelling is located, and they are complying with state laws and regulations governing attorney conduct related to the rule. To be exempt from the advance fee ban, attorneys must also meet a fourth requirement — they must place any fees they collect in a client trust account and abide by state laws and regulations covering such accounts.

“The days of simply opening up shop and starting a mortgage relief firm have come to an end,” said Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale. “Individuals or businesses providing loan modification services must be licensed in order to conduct business and cannot charge advance fees.”

The Federal Trade Commission works to prevent mortgage relief and loan modification scams. To file a complaint, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website also provides free information on a variety of consumer topics at

Article source:

Widows face foreclosure due to mortgage Catch-22


Two years after he died of cancer, Dorothy Jackson’s late husband received a letter from the bank.

“Dear David A. Jackson Deceased,” the letter said. It was from a Wells Fargo “home preservation specialist,” offering advice if Mr. Jackson had a “change in circumstances.”

The bank said it was open to helping Jackson’s late husband of five decades, a retired Tampa police sergeant whose death kept Dorothy, 72, from making her monthly payments of more than $2,000.

But the bank refused to talk to her. Jackson was told her attempts to shrink payments to half that size, closer to what she could afford, would go nowhere.

The reason: Nearly a decade earlier, though both she and her husband were named on the home’s title, only David signed the loan.

What might look like a small paperwork oversight became for Jackson and other widows a seemingly insurmountable snare.

The bank would not let her take over the loan unless its payments were up to date. But to afford that, Jackson needed different loan terms — which the bank would not provide unless she took over the loan.

Stymied by the Catch-22 and pestered by debt collectors six times a day, Jackson walked to her bookcase and relayed the bank’s offer to her husband’s urn.

“Honey, if you want to resurrect yourself to come out and refinance our home,” she said, “you go for it.”

Lawyers and legal-aid counselors call it a sad reality of the housing crisis: Widows refused loan help and forced into foreclosure in the years after their spouses’ death.

For distressed homeowners, the bureaucratic obstacle course of refinancing in an age of tight credit is hard enough to navigate on its own. But for grieving widows with finances already in disarray, the loan maze and its accompanying fears of losing a family home have proven a demoralizing shock.

“It’s a clash of circumstances that couldn’t be any more devastating,” said Kathleen Mullin, the executive director of St. Petersburg-based Gulfcoast Legal Services.

“This problem and the web of paperwork causes so much stress that it can impact (widows’) health, impact their well-being, to the point where they don’t even know what to do. They’re just frozen.”

Widows caught in this runaround, counselors said, never realized the damage it could cause if only their husband signed the mortgage note. They did not expect it would prevent them from a loan modification that could allow them to keep paying and stay in their homes.

There’s no public data on how many widows have faced this frustration. But attorneys and counselors say it is a growing problem for surviving spouses – predominately women – barely seen before the foreclosure crisis began.

Billy Howard, the Morgan Morgan attorney representing Jackson in a harassment lawsuit against Wells Fargo, said his firm has more than 25 widows with similar problems, up from only a few cases in recent years.

“You’ve got people who want to be able to pay and think they could afford to stay,” said foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa, whose firm has about 10 similar cases, up from none a few years back, “and the bank tells them it is simply not possible.”

The trap has proven particularly troublesome in Florida, with high rates of home distress and more than 1 million widows and widowers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey.

The rates of foreclosure and serious mortgage delinquencies, a warning sign for distress, grew faster for seniors than homeowners younger than 50 between 2007 and 2011, AARP data shows.

Included in that group are many widows on fixed incomes, who must contend not just with health care and funeral expenses but with paying off a retirement home, alone.

Karine Gialella, a Gulfcoast Legal Services attorney, said she worked with a St. Petersburg widow in her 80s who found the only way to avoid foreclosure was to file for bankruptcy.

Wells Fargo has filed no motions and would not comment on Jackson’s case. Spokeswoman Veronica Clemons said the bank “can provide methods for affordable home options” for widows unnamed on a note, but would not share details.

“We review all applicable, affordable options for customers facing financial difficulties,” Clemons wrote in an e-mail to the Times, “and are committed to working with our customers on finding appropriate solutions.”

Other banks say they have designed ways for widows to assume the loan and dodge foreclosure. Bank of America offers to transfer loans to widows quickly and with less paperwork after a loan modification is approved, a spokeswoman said. And JPMorgan Chase offers to add a widow’s name at the same time it modifies the note.

But programs like those often require the loans to be owned by the bank. If, for instance, that loan was one of millions sold to investors or the nation’s biggest mortgage buyer, Fannie Mae, widows behind on payments would not qualify.

Though due-on-sale clauses allow lenders to demand full payment when a loan changes hands, federal law prohibits calling in a loan just because a widow took it over. But banks have argued in court that they’re demanding payment because of the default, not the death, said Matt Bayard, a staff attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami. Some judges have agreed.

Some attorneys said they have won modifications for widows after submitting death certificates and proof the surviving spouse could continue payments.

But the process can take months of phone-bank hassles and volleys of paperwork for widows with outside help, leaving many counselors to worry about widows going it alone.

“Most of these banks don’t even talk to them seriously unless they get a lawyer,” Howard said.

Jennifer Newton, a consumer protection attorney with Florida Legal Services, which provides legal aid to Floridians with low incomes, said the problem is partially an outgrowth of banks’ stricter lending demands.

Banks are reluctant to switch over loans to homeowners, like struggling widows, without good credit or solid finances. “No one’s getting a refinancing right now unless they have substantial equity,” Newton said.

Others say the blame lies with banks’ “factory-like” loan modification process, in which home­owners are assessed en masse based on checklists that allow little nuance for widows’ special circumstances.

“The servicers are big, complicated bureaucracies, who have nothing at stake to get people loan mods,” said Diane Thompson, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

Dorothy Jackson, who owed more than $200,000 on her mortgages, moved to a Lutz apartment in 2010, a few months after her husband died. “I felt I was cheating living in a place I wasn’t paying for,” she said.

In the two years it took the bank to foreclose, thieves broke into Jackson’s vacant home and someone also stole trees her husband and late son had once planted in the yard, said Jackson’s daughter, Kimberly Fernandez.

In October, Jackson told a Hills­borough County court room of Wells Fargo’s letter, and read her own to a judge. “Dave and I loved that place. It was home to us, my children, my grandchildren,” she said. “Now I have nothing but a broken heart.”

Earlier this month, the home was sold at a foreclosure auction for $111,900. It was one of 81 scheduled that day.

Drew Harwell can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Article source:

Expected Foreclosure Wave Weakened by Short Sale Rip Current

Short Sale Rip Current

Bank Repossessions Down But Pre-Foreclosure and Short Sales Increasing

A strong rip current of distress continues to threaten the U.S. housing market despite the absence of a giant wave of bank foreclosures in 2012.

There’s no doubt that the great foreclosure wave of 2012 just didn’t happen. No mighty financial dams fell and no monetary levees were washed aside.

According to Bloomberg News “when banks pulled back on foreclosures two years ago following a government investigation into allegations of faulty practices, market researchers, academics and Wall Street analysts said that a surge of delinquent homes would deluge the U.S. market once lenders resolved the claims and worked through backlog, driving down prices for years to come. RealtyTrac  a seller of property data, warned a year ago of a “new set of incoming foreclosure waves.”

In fact, what RealtyTrac predicted in December 2011 was this:

“Despite a seasonal slowdown similar to what we’ve seen in each of the past four years, November’s numbers suggest a new set of incoming foreclosure waves, many of which may roll into the market as REOs or short sales sometime early next year.”

Others provided similar predictions. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress in January we should expect 1 million foreclosures in 2012 and another 1 million in 2013. According to the Bloomberg article cited above, Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School expected in February that the logjam of foreclosures may be “unleashed” this year.

Wachter is quoted in the Bloomberg article as admitting that she was wrong. And certainly the 1 million foreclosed homes (REO) that Bernanke predicted — and which RealtyTrac also expected at the onset of the year — have not materialized. Through October there have been a total of 559,063 REOs nationwide, on pace for about 650,000 for the year.

Certainly that’s still a huge number of bank repossessions by historical standards. In 2005 and 2006 there were less than 270,000 REOs per year. But it’s 19 percent below the 800,000 REOs in 2011 and 35 percent below the peak of more than 1 million REOs in 2010.

“Or Short Sales”

The two-word phrase “or short sales” in the RealtyTrac quote above turned out to be the most prescient part of the prediction.

According to the National Association of Realtors, “distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts — accounted for 24 percent of October sales (12 percent were foreclosures and 12 percent were short sales), unchanged from September; they were 28 percent in October 2011.” Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in October, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.” (Parenthesis theirs)

RealtyTrac distressed sales data from the third quarter shows a similar trend, with pre-foreclosure sales increasing 22 percent from the previous quarter and a year ago even while sales of bank-owned properties decreased 20 percent from a year ago. The pre-foreclosure annual increases accelerated during the quarter, only up 2 percent in July but up 12 percent in August and up 56 percent in September. Preliminary numbers from October show those pre-foreclosure sales increasing 74 percent from a year ago for the month.

What RealtyTrac did not anticipate was for so many short sales to be completed outside of the foreclosure process.

Short sales of homes not in foreclosure during the third quarter increased 15 percent from the previous quarter and were up 17 percent from a year ago. RealtyTrac data shows these short sales accounted for an estimated 22 percent of all sales during the quarter, while the pre-foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 10 percent and the REO sales accounted for nearly 10. That brought the total distressed sale share to 41 percent of all residential sales for the quarter.

Better for Banks and Borrowers

All this demonstrates that a large number of properties that would have been foreclosed were instead converted into short sales. The logic for such conversions from the lender’s perspective is plain: The foreclosure discount is steeper than the loss with short sales, 20 percent versus 14 percent, according to NAR. RealtyTrac data shows the average price of an REO sale was $161,000 for the quarter compared to $186,000 for a short sale. Lenders realize that they often lose less with a short sale than with a bank repossession and subsequent sale.

But what about borrowers? From the homeowner’s view, whether a home is sold through a short sale or a foreclosure the end result is the same: The property is lost. At least by going through a short sale it’s possible to avoid the social and financial stigma of a foreclosure.

No less important, borrowers had a very good reason to pursue short sales in 2012: the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 says that in general money not paid to settle a mortgage debt on a prime residence cannot be taxed as “income” — a rule set to end Dec. 31, unless extended by Congress, a continuation which was not guaranteed.

Foreclosed borrowers could get the same tax benefit as short sellers under the tax rule — but not the certainty that a foreclosure action would close before the end of the year.

Article source:

Millions of homeowners forgo foreclosure reviews

Options to Prevent Mortgage Foreclosure

Can I stop foreclosure? This is a question many people in
economic crisis want to know. If they can’t do anything else they are anxious
to avoid mortgage foreclosure. Being able to stop a foreclosure sale is not
impossible, but it does require the homeowner to make some preliminary plans
and know what he needs to do. Most importantly you do not want to make the
mistake of thinking you are exempt from Federal National Mortgage Association
foreclosures: the government guarantee is to protect the lender from losing
money and not the homeowner from losing his home.

Click Here to Prepare Your Application Regarding Stop Foreclosure Sale!

Can I stop foreclosure? This is a question that crosses the
minds of many people who are facing a financial crisis during these difficult
economic times. There are alternatives to foreclosure, but it’s important to
make sure you begin seeking them while you still have time to do so.

Facing Foreclosure

One of the worst things that can happen to a homeowner is mortgage
foreclosure. While current economic conditions often prevent homeowners from
facing foreclosure, there are certainly alternatives to losing one’s home. Some
of the methods a homeowner can use to avoid foreclosure include the following;

  • Loan modification
  • Refinance
  • Forbearance agreement with
  • Quit claim deed (deed in
    lieu of foreclosure)
  • Short sale
  • Bankruptcy

These are the most common methods for avoiding foreclosure
but there may be others your lender is willing to offer. Please see our website
at for other advice on avoiding foreclosure.

Are Government
Mortgages Exempt?

One thing you don’t want to do if you find yourself in
financial trouble is assume you are exempt from Federal National Mortgage
Association foreclosures. Just because the mortgage is insured by the
government doesn’t mean they will not foreclose on the homeowner who fails to
make the payments—the guarantee is for the lender, not the borrower. You still
must make your payments or you can lose your home. The difference lies in how
long it will take and how the process works: sometimes the lender will collect
up front from the agency and then sell the home at foreclosure while other
times a lender will wait to see how much the home sells for before going to the
government agency for the deficiency. You will face one of two fates in this
case: a tax liability for the deficiency the lender or government agency writes
off or a judgment from the court for that same amount.

Stopping a

How to stop a foreclosure sale? The most important
thing here is to make sure you contact the mortgage company as soon as
possible—preferably before your home goes into foreclosure. The sooner and more
frequently you remain in contact with the lender the better the chances are you
will be able to work something out to retain possession of your home. Not only
will this move save your credit, but you will also avoid the tax implications
of losing your home. 

Article source:

House Hunt: Homes in Foreclosure For Sale

Our weekly House Hunt feature takes a look at homes in foreclosure on the market.

Article source:

FORECLOSURE: Wells Fargo Bank, NA v. Melissa A. Benoy; Case #12-CV-448

(Pub. Dec. 27 – Final Jan 10, 2013)






Case No. 12-CV-448

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

successor by merger to

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc.



Melissa A. Benoy, Shane A. Benoy,

Wells Fargo Bank NA, CapFinancial Properties CV 2 LLC, Reinhart

Foodservice, LLC, Sysco Minnesota, Inc., Bank of America NA, William J.

Radosevich, Capital One Bank (USA) NA, Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC, Midland Funding LLC, Citibank (South Dakota) NA a/k/a Citibank NA

and Chase Bank USA NA


PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that by virtue of a judgment of foreclosure entered on August 1, 2012 in the amount of $120,831.36 the Sheriff will sell the described premises at public auction as follows:

TIME: February 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

TERMS: Pursuant to said judgment, 10% of the successful bid must be paid to the sheriff at the sale in cash, cashier’s check or certified funds, payable to the clerk of courts (personal checks cannot and will not be accepted). The balance of the successful bid must be paid to the clerk of courts in cash, cashier’s check or certified funds no later than ten days after the court’s confirmation of the sale or else the 10% down payment is forfeited to the plaintiff. The property is sold ‘as is’ and subject to all liens and encumbrances.

PLACE: On the East steps of the St. Croix Courthouse, in the City of Hudson, St. Croix County.

DESCRIPTION: Outlot 193, Assessor’s Plat of the City of Hudson, St. Croix County, Wisconsin, except the South 10 feet thereof.

Tax Parcel No. 236-1491-00-000

PROPERTY ADDRESS: 219 3rd St Hudson, WI 54016-1538

DATED: December 3, 2012

John A. Shilts

St. Croix County Sheriff

Gray Associates, L.L.P.

Attorneys for Plaintiff

16345 West Glendale Drive

New Berlin, WI 53151-2841

(414) 224-8404

Please go to to obtain the bid for this sale.

Gray Associates, L.L.P. is attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.  If you have previously received a discharge in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case, this communication should not be construed as an attempt to hold you personally liable for the debt.


public notices, foreclosures

More from around the web

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MICHELLE MEYER: One Thing Explains Why Home Prices Are Rising In Some …

The Case-Shiller Home Price report is out, and the 20-city index climbed 4.31 percent year-over-year, beating expectations.

However, some cities saw stronger price gains than others.  And some cities, like Chicago and New York, saw prices decline.

So, what’s behind this?

One key reason for the discrepancy is the legal process for foreclosing on a home, explains Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Michelle Meyer.

“Broadly, states with a non-judicial process witnessed a sharper decline in home prices at the beginning of the downturn, but are currently enjoying price appreciation,” said Meyer recently to Business Insider. “This is due to a more efficient disposition of delinquent supply, leaving lean inventory in many markets.

“In contrast, states with a judicial process, such as Florida, Illinois, and New York, are still struggling to clear the pipeline of distressed loans. As a result, home prices in the Chicago and New York metro areas have continued to edge lower.”

Meyer sent us this chart when we asked her for her chart of the year.  It shows the breakdown of foreclosure inventory into states with a judicial vs. non-judicial foreclosure process.

judicial home price

CoreLogic, which tracks foreclosure activity, reports that foreclosure activity in October continues to be high in the judicial states.  Below is a chart comparing the two types of states.

judicial foreclosure


Here’s a brief description of the judicial foreclosure process via MBAA:

judicial foreclosure


Wall Street’s Biggest Geniuses Reveal Their Favorite Charts Of 2012

12 States Getting Buried By Foreclosures

Article source:

Deadline for homeowners in foreclosure settlement nears – Post

By Christin Nance Lazerus

December 25, 2012 3:24PM

Updated: December 25, 2012 7:32PM

Nearly 2,000 citizens across Indiana have benefitted so far from the National Mortgage Settlement — to the tune of $71.3 million — and Hoosier homeowners are eligible for additional aid.

But the deadline to file is approaching fast.

Abby Kuzma, Director of Consumer Protection at the Indiana Attorney General’s office, said this portion of the settlement focuses on homeowners who were foreclosed upon and experienced a servicer error between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2011. The settlement covers mortgages serviced by Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. If buyers qualify, they can receive at least $860.

Kuzma said that eligible homeowners should receive a claim form in the mail by the end of this month, but they also can fill out a claim form until Jan. 18 at or contact Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight at (866) 430-8358.

The form is free to submit. Kuzma cautioned buyers to be on the lookout of scam artists who may offer a settlement payment if buyers put money down. Servicer errors are a serious matter, but Kuzma cautioned that they typically don’t rise to the level of a buyer getting a home back.

“Errors are absolutely not OK, but in most instances, they’re the kind — robosigning for example or improperly submitted documents — where it doesn’t mean the information is not there. They just did not properly go through the procedures that are required by law.”

Kuzma said the settlement has resulted in considerable mortgage relief for buyers. About $13.87 million in refinancing was given to 450 current Indiana borrowers, and 1,461 borrowers were extended about $57.4 million for loss mitigation relief which could have included help through short sales, loan modifications, deeds in lieu of foreclosure or principal reductions.

But the office still receives complaints about mortgage servicers — 312 so far this year — and they encourage anyone having difficulties to visit

“We absolutely want to know if not doing what’s required as part of the $20 billion obligation,” she said.

The Indiana General Assembly has passed certain buyer protections, such as requiring settlement conferences with the bank.

Indiana Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Erin Reece said a handful of Northwest Indiana consumers have been assisted by the settlement, but none were interested in speaking about their experiences.

“(The) report helps outline the steps the banks have taken to implement the terms of the settlement and gives insight into the amount of relief Hoosier consumers are receiving,” Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement. “I look forward to reading the Office of Mortgage Settlement’s review of the banks’ reported consumer relief activities.”

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