We’ve all heard advertisements geared towards homeowners at risk of foreclosure on television and radio. Unfortunately, these ads, which offer to save homes from foreclosure, are often placed by scammers, who make false promises and mislead homeowners out of their money, or worse, their home. Fortunately, thanks to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, these ads are hopefully on the way out.

On December 7, the Attorney General announced a joint initiative with the New York News Publishers Associate, New York Press Association and the New York State Broadcasters Association to crack down on advertisements for fraudulent foreclosure rescue services.

This initiative will help media companies review advertisements for foreclosure rescue services and identity possible scams, stopping scammers before they can reach homeowners. Community media outlets received letters asking them to voluntarily review submitted advertisements for the correct, legally required disclosures and assist in identifying scams.

At the Center, we have seen far too many homeowners devastated by foreclosure rescue scams, which target vulnerable homeowners who are seeking to avoid foreclosure. The New York Times recently ran a front-page story on deed theft scams, an especially pernicious scam where homeowners are tricked into signing over the title to their homes under false pretenses. For example, one of the homeowners profiled in the story lost her Bed-Stuy brownstone after seeing a television commercial urging her to call MyHouseIsADump.com. Over 3,000 New Yorkers have reported being scammed since March 2010, with over $8.75 million in losses.

As we demonstrated in our report, Who Can You Trust?, many homeowners lack the tools and knowledge necessary to determine whether the organization they are working with is legitimate — or seeking to swindle them. One major challenge we have found in fighting back against scammers is their practice of advertising in print, television, and radio media. To homeowners, seeing an organization advertised in legitimate, trusted media sources lends it undeserved legitimacy. That’s why we commend the Attorney General for undertaking this initiative. By increasing the media’s policing of scammer advertisements, we can make sure that more homeowners get connected to the legitimate help they need.

“Vigilant, well-informed homeowners are the best protection against these deceitful mortgage rescue scams,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “These scams are particularly repugnant because they take victims of the housing crash and make them victims again.

If you are a homeowner and you’re not sure if you can trust the person or company you are working with, remember these four signs of a scam:

  • Someone “guarantees” a positive result.

  • Someone asks you to pay an upfront fee.

  • Someone tells you to stop paying your mortgage and tells you to pay them instead.

  • Someone pressures you to sign paperwork without fully explaining what you are signing.

To find out whether the organization you are working with is government-vetted, find trustworthy help, or report a scam, visit AGScamHelp.com. To get help with mortgage or foreclosure issues anywhere in New York State, please call 1-855-HOME-456 to reach the Attorney General’s Homeowner Hotline.