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Beware of mortgage settlement scammers in WA
Last week, the country's largest consumer protection settlement was reached, with banks and mortgage lenders promising to pay out approximately $20 billion to homeowners across the country.
In Washington, approximately $486 million will go toward those who have experienced default, are currently "under water," or find themselves in some other financial straits due to their homeownership. The Washington State Attorney General's office is already warning residents to be aware that scammers may try to take advantage of those who are looking to find relief through the settlement dollars.
"Whenever there is a large settlement or federal claims program, scam artists come out of the woodwork," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Doug Walsh, the head of the state's Consumer Protection Division (CPD). "They offer to assist victims for a fee, when the services are actually available for free. Don't take the bait. Distressed homeowners can get counseling and, where appropriate, legal assistance for no cost."
The CPD is advising consumers that the banks will notify homeowners if they're eligible for any of the settlement funding, Walsh said. Anyone saying they'll help speed up the process for a fee is running a scam.
The AG's office and the CPD are advising customers to make sure that if they worked through one of the five banks involved in the settlement, that the bank has consumers' most current information. The five banks and their toll-free numbers are:
• Ally/GMAC (800) 766-4622
• Bank of America (877) 488-7814
• Citi (866) 272-4749
• JPMorgan Chase (866) 372-6901
• Wells Fargo (800) 288-3213
The AG's office notes there is already free assistance and counseling available to Washington homeowners through the Washington Homeowner Information Hotline at (877) 894-4663.
For those facing more dire circumstances such as foreclosure, there is a counseling and remediation program available. Visit www.homeownership.wa.gov.
To learn more about the National Mortgage Settlement and its impact in Washington, visit www.atg.wa.gov/NationalMortgageSettlement.aspx.