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BBB offers advice on foreclosure 'rescue' loans

Though there are many signs that the U.S. economy is on the upswing, the effects of the recession linger on. Many homeowners continue to struggle to stay current on their mortgage payments.

While there are several agencies and organizations willing and able to provide assistance to these homeowners, scammers are also aware of the desperation people are feeling, and - as always - they're looking to profit from it.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises consumers to be cautious when reaching out for assistance if they're falling behind on their mortgage payments.

In addition to always researching a company's Business Review with the BBB (, homeowners should avoid companies which:

--Charge an upfront fee to modify your loan. Under FTC rules, loan modification firms are prohibited from collecting a fee until they have provided a service to you.

--Claim high - and unsubstantiated - success rates.

--Guarantee they can stop the foreclosure process - regardless of your circumstances.

--Instruct you not to contact your lender, lawyer or housing counselor.

--Encourage you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time.

--Ask you to make your mortgage payments to them, rather than your lender.

--Ask you to transfer your property deed or title to them.

--Offer to fill out paperwork for you.

--Offer to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is not set by current market prices at the time of the sale.

--Pressure you to sign paperwork that you haven't had time to review.

If you're having trouble paying your mortgage or have received a foreclosure notice, you should contact your lender immediately. Generally, they're willing to work with homeowners and it's in their interest to avoid foreclosures as well, because foreclosures cost them money too.

According to the FTC, consumers falling behind on their mortgage payments can also call their local U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ( or the housing authority in their state, city or county for help in finding a legitimate housing counseling agency nearby - or consider contacting the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) at 888-995-HOPE or The HPF is a nonprofit organization which partners with mortgage companies, local governments and other organizations to help consumers get loan modifications and avoid foreclosure.

In Minnesota, the Minnesota Homeownership Center offers loan modification services free of charge through their state-wide network of non-profit providers. The providers can also assist homeowners with foreclosure issues. A consumer looking to modify their current mortgage loan may contact the Minnesota Homeownership Center by calling 651-659-9336 or 1-866-462-6466.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce reminds consumers that persons who engage in loan modifications must have a residential mortgage originator license. To check the license status of a loan modification company, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce at or 1-800-657-3602.

By being patient and exploring all of the options available to you, you'll avoid working with people who don't have your best interests in mind and hopefully be able to work out an arrangement - with your lender or with a legitimate housing counseling agency -- which will allow you to remain in your home.