County official alleges companies in Florida ripping off Michigan residents facing foreclosure
Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel, Jr. is alleging that two Florida companies may be engaged in scams involving Michigan residents facing foreclosure.
Hertel, in an interview with Michigan Messenger, says he received complaints from residents about the two different companies over the last month. As a result he called both, and confirmed what residents were telling him they were experiencing.
The first company, Hope for Hamp, says on its website it is selling people software that will assist them in getting their mortgage refinanced.
But Hertel says when he called the company, he had a very different experience.
“The first company, Home for Hamp, started out talking about software but quickly changed the subject to modifications. [They said] that they worked with hundreds of banks across the country to get people modifications. Every time I asked about the software they said it was not important and that they were trying to save my home,” Hertel said. “They also used terms like ‘bank of unamerican’ to sympathize with my plight. The “software” was $795, although they seemed to be the ones using the software. They also said they would call me back after her supervisor made sure I qualified. I am not sure what I was qualifying for since they were just selling me software. I am pretty sure they realized the information I gave them was false.”
The Hope for Hamp company has the following disclaimer on its website, which seems to contradict Hertel’s experience.
“Disclaimer: We are not a loan modification company within of FS §494.00296 or related state statutes as we do not offer or provide loan modification services. We offer software for individuals to initiate and process their own modification requests. We are a private company and no way affiliated with the US Government or any of its agencies.”
Hertel never received a return call from Hope for Hamp. Michigan Messenger called Hope for Hamp and was referred to an attorney for the company. The attorney did not return calls from Michigan Messenger to discuss Hertel’s allegations.
The site is also coming under fire by the campaign team for President Barack Obama for using the campaign logo as well as an image of the White House, implying the programs are supported by the President.
“The use is not authorized, and they will be asked to cease use immediately,” said a campaign spokesperson.
In the second example Hertel is warning residents about, the company is soliciting participants for litigation against the banks and foreclosure mills. The catch? They are asking for thousands of dollars up front for the homeowner to participate in a class action lawsuit. This company in question is the Mortgage Relief Center.
“The second company offered to get me legal representation for case. They again wanted to know my story. I gave them a few pieces of information and they quickly believed I would be perfect for the mass joinder suit that was being filed,” Hertel says. “When I asked how much it would cost they said I would receive a call from a supervisor. When I asked how much on average he told me roughly $5000. I asked if I could talk to the attorney that would be handling my case and i was told not until I paid the $5,000. I asked if any of the attorneys referenced in their materials would be the one handling my case. They told me it would likely be an associate.”
While the phone operator said Hertel would be faced with a cost of $5,000 to become part of the class action lawsuit, the company’s website has a disclaimer that undermines those claims.
Messenger left several messages with call center operators associated with Mortgage Relief Center, but no one returned calls.
According to filings with the Florida state government, Hope for Hamp is owned by Mass Litigation Alliance of Florida, LLC. Mortgage Relief Center is owned by a company called Loan Solutions, LLC. Both companies were incorporated on March 28, 2011. And the incorporation was done by the company Amerilawyer.com. That company’s website claims they have 219 years of combined experience in setting up corporations all over the U.S. The second company also used this service to create its corporation.
“I think both of these are clever ways to skirt laws in both Michigan and Florida and confuse citizens who are already in financial hardship to give there last dollars to them. The first company is a modification scam. Most of these have been shut down and are illegal under Michigan and Florida Law. The clever way they try to get around that is by selling software instead of remods. I doubt greatly that the software does anything of value and far less than 800 dollars of value,” Hertel says. “The second is trying to get around the law banning lawyers from soliciting clients. No real lawyer would take a case without at least examining it. They wanted you to pay $5,000 before you even talked to a lawyer. They were very aggressive on the phone. [One resident] was called directly by this group three times a day for weeks. Real lawyers don’t do that.”
Hertel says he has also referred the companies to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate any possible violations of Michigan law, as well as the Florida Attorney General’s office.
“These companies are using loopholes in the law to rip off citizens of their last dollars in a very difficult time for them,” Hertel said. “This is a clear example of why foreclosure by advertisement is a bad thing. At a time we should be offering homeowners help we are instead offering to provide them access to scammers.”
Cooper Levey-Baker from the Florida Independent, Michigan Messenger’s sibling site, contributed to this report.