WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- A multiagency federal-state effort will crack down on scam artists targeting people seeking help to avoid foreclosure, three U.S. departments said Monday.
The new effort will match up responses from federal law enforcement agencies, state investigators and prosecutors, civil enforcement entities and the private sector to protect homeowners seeking help under the Obama's administration's Making Home Affordable program from predators, the Justice Department said in a news release filed jointly with the Treasury Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Trade Commission.
"American homeowners desperately need the relief this program offers but the very last thing they need is to be taken advantage of as they try to hold on to their homes," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
Exploitative behavior by lenders has jeopardized homeownership for millions of Americans, Attorney General Eric Holder said.
"The Department of Justice's message is simple: If you discriminate against borrowers or prey on vulnerable homeowners with fraudulent mortgage schemes, we will find you and we will punish you," Holder said.
The FTC reported filing five new cases to stop illegal practices of individuals and companies offering loan modification or foreclosure scams.
"We're enforcing the law against these scam artists who are deceiving consumers while they're down," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, "and we're working with other government agencies, non-profits and mortgage servicers to reach out to our neighbors in distress with the details of how and where to get help."