Free foreclosure help is available by calling the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection. If you’ve paid money to an unlicensed foreclosure rescue or a debt management company, call the bureau’s hot line: 1 888-NO4-CLOZ, or 1-888-664-2569.
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If you’re facing foreclosure, don’t pay money to have a company or lawyer renegotiate your mortgage.

You can renegotiate the mortgage yourself, or get help for free, according to the Maine Consumer Credit Protection Bureau.
The bureau recently ordered 15 foreclosure “rescue” companies to stop doing business in Maine because they weren’t licensed. They were charging Maine homeowners hundreds of dollars — some near $2,000 — for a service they could get for free.

People who paid money were already in dire financial shape, said David Stolt, chief field investigator for the credit protection bureau. “These companies are preying on the desperation of consumers, that fear that ‘I’m going to lose my home.'”

One Naples woman said she and her husband were facing foreclosure. Her husband is self-employed in the construction business. The tough economy meant his work and income were cut. It was tough to pay the bills on her food service paycheck. They got behind on their mortgage.

When foreclosure court papers arrived, not knowing what to do, she clicked onto a Web site link that promised help to homeowners in fear of foreclosure. She received a follow-up call and was told an out-of-state firm would help her for $1,895.
When her income tax refund came in March, she paid the $1,895.

She knows now when the caller told her they could help her for $1,895, she should have hung up. “If someone is asking for a large advance fee, that’s a big red flag,” Stolt said.

Now, the Naples woman is working with her bank to get a lower mortgage. The Consumer Credit Protection Bureau was successful in getting back her $1,895 because the lawyer was not licensed to do business in Maine.

Other consumers weren’t so fortunate, Stolt said. Some foreclosure rescue companies have closed, which means people have to stand in line and often get back less than they paid.

The Naples homeowner has advice to others facing foreclosure: “Call your bank and see if there’s anything they can do. Try to negotiate yourself.” The bank can put a hold on the foreclosure.

Stolt recommends getting free help by contacting the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection foreclosure prevention hot line: 1-888-664-2569.

“In one case we did manage to postpone the auction of a man’s house,” he said. “He’s trying to obtain a loan modification so he can stay in his home.”

The heavily advertised foreclosure rescue companies and credit card debt consolidation are growing problems, he said. They charge high fees to people who can least afford it and often don’t deliver.

Earlier this month, the state had 30 complaints from Mainers who had paid unlicensed foreclosure rescue companies. Since then, “the lid has blown off,” Stolt said. “Calls to the hot line are nonstop now.”

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