Alert 2012-10| March 16, 2012
Independent Foreclosure Grant Review: Misrepresentation of Involvement by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in Independent Foreclosure Grant Review Scam
Chief Executive Officers of All National Banks and Federal Savings Associations; all State Banking Authorities; Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Conference of State Bank Supervisors; Deputy Comptrollers (districts); Assistant Deputy Comptrollers; District Counsel; and all Examining Personnel
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has been notified that a group using the names "855LAW5559" and "National Legal Help" has misrepresented that the OCC has directed their organization to send foreclosure grant review correspondence to banking consumers.
The OCC has no knowledge of or affiliation with the group responsible for sending the letters and did not direct it to send any letters to consumers.
Letters were apparently sent to homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure. The letters claim the recipient's lender is being investigated for wrongdoing by banking regulators. The letters also state that the recipient's mortgage loan is being reviewed for foreclosure fraud. The letters inform the recipient of his or her approved eligibility to receive $10,000 in grant assistance and ask the homeowner to use the services of National Legal Help by mailing the organization a payment of $10,000 by a specific due date.
Based upon the OCC's review of information and National Legal Help's Website (www.nationallegalhelp.com), the program does not appear to be legitimate and instead is likely an "up-front-fee scam."
Consumers having difficulty making their mortgage payments and anyone who receives a foreclosure notice should immediately contact his or her lender and ask if the letter received is legitimate.
The federal government and legitimate nonprofit organizations offer many programs—at no cost—to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Anyone receiving any type of foreclosure letter can telephone or find information on the Websites of the following legitimate federal agencies and nonprofit programs for help.
- U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, phone (855) 411-2372; and www.consumerfinance.gov.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, phone (800) 569-4287 or (877) 483-1515; and http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/i_want_to/talk_to_a_housing_counselor.
- Making Home Affordable.gov, www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/pages/default.aspx, an official program of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- HOPE NOW, an alliance between mortgage counselors, companies, investors, and other participants, has established a Homeowner's HOPE HOTline, phone (888) 995-HOPE. Callers can speak with legitimate, HUD-approved counselors working with HOPE NOW.
- NeighborWorks America, a large nonprofit housing advocacy organization, www.nw.org/network/index.asp.
Consumers who faced foreclosure on their primary residences between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010, may be eligible for an independent foreclosure review (IFR) pursuant to orders issued on April 13, 2011, by the OCC and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
To find more information about the IFR process or to learn how to submit a request for review, consumers should visit the Independent Foreclosure Review Website, www.independentforeclosurereview.com. Assistance with the request for review and answers to questions about the IFR process are also available at (888) 952-9105. The independent foreclosure review is free. There is only one source for the independent foreclosure review. Consumers should beware of anyone who asks them to pay a fee for any foreclosure review service, such as completing the "request for review" form.
Consumers who receive other mortgage modification or foreclosure-related solicitations should research the license status of the companies making the solicitations prior to contacting or providing personal information to these companies. If consumers believe that the companies are acting in an unethical or questionable fashion, they should report the companies to the Federal Trade Commission, their state's finance department, or to their state and local consumer protection agencies. If they have questions involving national banks or federal savings associations (collectively banks), and the questions cannot be resolved by the banks directly, consumers should contact the OCC's Customer Assistance Group by calling (800) 613-6743 or by visiting the HelpWithMyBank Website, www.helpwithmybank.gov.
Any information regarding the subject of this or any other alert that you wish to bring to the attention of the OCC may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The OCC offers the following resources to help consumers avoid mortgage scams:
- Avoiding Mortgage Modification Scams and Foreclosure Rescue Scams: https://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/consumer-advisories/2011/consumer-advisory-2011-1.html
- Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams: https://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/psa/avoiding-foreclosure-rescue-scams.pdf
Richard C. Stearns
Director for Enforcement & Compliance