If you are trying to get a mortgage modification, should you listen to your mortgage servicer and do everything you're told? Maybe not. According to a Washington Post article, testimony in a Senate banking committee hearing points to a big problem with the advice that troubled homeowners get from mortgage servicers. Here are a couple of things you should beware of.

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"We can't process your modification requests until you have missed a couple of payments."

Nowhere in HAMP documentation is there a requirement that you miss mortgage payments to be considered for a modification. You do have to have a qualifying mortgage with a lender participating in the program. And you have to be experiencing a qualifying hardship which would put you at risk of imminent default. However, many lenders don't think that you are at risk of imminent default until you are actually behind on your mortgage. The problem is that missing payments trashes your credit and increases the chance of foreclosure.

"Make this lower trial payment for a few months and you'll get your modification."

You could be in a trial period for a year or longer, and each month the difference in your regular and your trial payment gets added to the amount that you'll be asked to fork over if the mod is denied. A big payment backlog increases your chance of foreclosure if your modification is denied.

"Don't worry about the calls from the loss mitigation people. As long as you're in a trial modification, we won't foreclose."

Few parts of the loan modification process are as frightening as the calls and foreclosure threats from one department while another one is supposedly working on your mortgage modification. Yet servicers defended this two-track system before the Banking committee, saying that they have to be ready to foreclose as quickly as possible if a mod is denied because every day of delay costs them $30 - $50 per property. So while you're in a trial modification period, people are moving forward with your foreclosure as well. And you may have very little time to forestall it once your HAMP is denied.

What should you do?

If you truly can't make your mortgage payments then you are going to go into default regardless of what advice you get. If someone tells you go miss a couple of payments just to get them paying attention, and you could afford to continue paying your mortgage, you may want to keep making your payments while applying for a modification and hoping for the best. Or you may want to miss a couple of payments -- however, consider opening a little savings account and keeping the missed payments in it. Because eventually the lender could deny your HAMP request and then immediately demand that you immediately make up for any missed or partial payments while you were applying for a modification or in a trial plan.

For conspiracy theorists

Some homeowners and housing counselors have accused mortgage loan servicers of gaming the system -- of encouraging borrowers to miss payments and rack up big arrearages while in trial plans, and then demanding all the back payments and threatening homeowners with foreclosure. What would this accomplish? Well, it gets homeowners who would be better off with a HAMP mod softened up and scared and willing to accept a proprietary mod, which is usually a lot less generous then HAMP. Or they get to foreclose on people who would never have been in danger had they not tried for a modification. And while it may not be in the investors' best interest to foreclose, it is definitely in the servicer's best interest. These companies make a lot more money foreclosing than they do by modifying mortgages.

Whatever advice you get from your loan servicer, take it with a grain of salt. And stay on top of everyone involved with your modification request and your potential foreclosure.