A company that deceived consumers with promises it could save their homes from foreclosure will pay $2.4 million to victims as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The case is part of the agency’s continuing crackdown on scams that prey on financially distressed homeowners.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Home Assure LLC conducted a nationwide marketing campaign designed to take advantage of struggling homeowners by offering so-called mortgage foreclosure rescue services. Home Assure typically charged consumers an up-front fee of $1,500 to $2,500. The company’s representatives falsely claimed that its special relationships with lenders would enable it to get favorable loan modifications or stop foreclosure, and that the company had helped thousands of consumers avoid foreclosure.
One of the claims on its website was, “If we are unable to negotiate a plan with your lender that improves your situation or gives you a viable strategy to avoid foreclosure, we will refund 100% of your money. . . No questions asked!”
According to the FTC, however, Home Assure did little or nothing to help consumers avoid foreclosure. In numerous instances the company refused to pay refunds, sometimes claiming that consumers did not meet the terms of the contract for a refund or that they had breached the contract by contacting their lender or filing for bankruptcy, and sometimes without giving a reason. (4/6/2009 release http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/04/hud.shtm; 11/24/2009 release http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/11/stolenhope.shtm)
The settlement order imposes a $2.4 million judgment on Home Assure and bans the company from selling mortgage loan modification and foreclosure relief services. The order also permanently prohibits Home Assure from misrepresenting any good or service, disclosing or benefitting from customers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of customer information properly.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final order was 5-0. The order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.
NOTE: Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the full force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(FTC File No. X090036)
Office of Public Affairs
FTCs Northeast Region
Ann F. Weintraub, Senior Attorney
FTCs Northeast Region