HONOLULU – The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) is launching a new public service announcement (PSA) to inform Hawaii homeowners to contact a free government certified housing counselor if they face the possibility of foreclosure.
The :30 second PSA will air on local television stations, beginning April 13. The spot is aimed at raising awareness about foreclosure rescue scams and the benefits of contacting a trained housing counselor. The PSA may be viewed at: http://cca.hawaii.gov/hfic/.
The Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center is a free public information service operated by DCCA. For a list of free certified housing counselors, visit HFIC.hawaii.gov or call (808) 587-3222.
The department’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) advises homeowners to know who to call for help, and to exercise caution when approached by anyone offering to save their home from foreclosure.
“Under state law, unless you’re an attorney, it’s generally illegal to charge an upfront fee to save your house from foreclosure,” said Stephen Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection. “There are still a number of people out there who may not realize there are free programs available to help those who may be at risk of losing their home.”
In April 2012, Hawaii received $7.9 million from a national mortgage settlement, a portion of which which will pay for the cost to run the PSA. No taxpayer money was expended to produce and air the spot.
Homeowners who are behind on their mortgage or facing foreclosure may be targeted by a foreclosure rescue scam. Foreclosure rescue scammers will use deceptive tactics to sell services that promise relief to homeowners in distress.
Signs of a foreclosure rescue scam may include:
· requiring a fee in advance
· promising to find mistakes in mortgage loan documents that will force the lender to cancel or modify the loan
· guaranteeing to stop a foreclosure
· or advising a homeowner to stop paying their mortgage company or stop talking to them.
Violations of Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act and the laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive trade practices subject offending parties to fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 per violation.