If you're trying to save your home from foreclosure, you may be desperate. And hearing all the horror stories in the media and from your neighbors doesn't give you a lot of hope for getting a modification. So, when a company promises huge results, fast, shouldn't you jump on the chance before you end up homeless? The FTC says just say no to companies that charge up front.

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The agency banned 8 firms from selling mortgage modification or foreclosure relief services under settlement agreements. FTC alleged that the marketers charged homeowners up-front fees and that their claims of being able to get mortgages modified or prevent foreclosure were false. The settlements are part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts against scams that target financially distressed consumers.

Hope Now Modifications (not to be confused with the Hope Now coalition, which is a voluntary effort by lenders to grant modifications. www.hopenow.com is a legitimate effort, not a scam). Brothers Salvatore and Nicholas Puglia, Hope Now Modifications LLC, and Hope Now Financial Services Corporation are accused of falsely claiming that they could obtain mortgage loan modifications in all or virtually all cases and would refund consumers’ money if they failed, and that they were affiliated with, or part of, the HOPE NOW Alliance, a free federal homeowner assistance program. They also were accused of using or selling homeowners' private information for their own benefit.

Loss Mitigation Services. Allegedly falsely promised that a loan modification was guaranteed if borrowers paid an advance fee of up to $5,500.The company also allegedly misrepresented that it was a department of, or affiliated with, the homeowner's lender or loan servicer. It falsely claimed that consumers would receive refunds if no loan modification was granted. In many cases, there were no loan modifications for consumers, and some lost their homes while waiting for the promised results.

Federal Loan Modification Law Center. FTC charges that the company pushed a so-called "Federal Loan Modification program," charging up to $3,000, much of which they required up-front, but many homeowners received nothing for their fees. The company also stands accused of selling or otherwise benefiting from customers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of customer information properly.

Notice what these dirt-bags all have in common.

1. They all require payment upfront. Unless you are working with an attorney, who keeps your retainer in an escrow fund as required by law, don't pay significant monies upfront. It makes sense -- the only reason to charge upfront instead of one a modification has been procured is that they know they either don't plan to do anything on your behalf or that their service isn't effective.

2. They rely on telemarketing to get your business. Word of mouth isn't cutting it for them, and they lack access to legitimate channels, such as bankruptcy attorneys, HUD counselors, or credit counselors.

3. They don't just stop at ripping you off on the fees you pay. These folks are accused of failing to properly dispose of your financial and personal information (which could leave you vulnerable to identity theft and other frauds), or even selling your information to others who may be up to no good.

If you feel you need outside help getting your mortgage modification done, consider hiring an attorney. Ask these questions when choosing someone to help you, or get a referral from a trusted mortgage counselor, bankruptcy lawyer, or credit counselor.

1. How do you determine if you can assist me with my mortgage modification?

2. Can you give me references from people that you effectively helped receive a mortgage modification?

3. How may I get mortgage loan modified?

4. How much could a mortgage modification financially cost me?

5. How many times have you dealt with my lender? What can I expect from my lender throughout the mortgage modification process?