Struggling homeowners need to be careful about where they look online for foreclosure help because a government agency found more than 200 scams advertised on popular search engines in the past couple weeks.
The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program shut down the scams that were targeting struggling homeowners through web advertisements on Yahoo!, Bing and Google, according to a statement from the agency.
The most popular scams told homeowners to stop paying their mortgage and offered to lower mortgages through the Home Affordable Modification Program if the homeowners paid them a fee, according to the statement. Some scams included having homeowners pay their mortgages to the scammers, transferring deeds or giving personal information. Some of the websites said they were connected with government agencies, according to the statement.
Microsoft suspended 400 advertisers associated with the mortgage fraud schemes and blocked any advertising with the 125 scammers caught in the investigation. Google also suspended advertising relationship with more than 500 advertisers associated with the 85 fraud schemes advertised on Google.
“[The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program] will investigate and hold accountable criminal who defraud homeowners in connection with HAMP, while doing everything we can to stop homeowners from becoming victims in the first place,” Christy Romero, deputy special inspector general of the agency said in the statement.