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Mortgage Scam Alert

The Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition is launching a campaign to warn struggling borrowers that some of the people promising to help them avoid foreclosure will only hasten it. The nonprofit, which will be joined by elected officials at an event today, doesn't want homeowners to be scammed. It's telling residents not to pay foreclosure-prevention firms upfront fees -- it's illegal to charge them in Maryland -- and to be suspicious of any company guaranteeing results. (Worse than simply paying fees upfront? Listening to firms who recommend you stop making mortgage payments in order to pay the fees.) The group directs homeowners to the Maryland HOPE hotline, 877-462-7555. Callers there are sent to nonprofit housing counseling agencies. HUD-approved agencies, which can be found nationwide, offer free foreclosure-prevention counseling. Some scammers have targeted homeowners who have equity, looking to steal it or the property itself. Others want whatever money the borrowers can scrape together, promising loan-modification help that will never be forthcoming. Anxiety about foreclosure -- and frustration with the Kafkaesque loan-modification process -- makes people easier prey for bad guys. Be careful out there. Do you have a success story to share? Or a cautionary tale?

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