The Federal Trade Commission has charged Foreclosure Solutions, LLC and Timothy A. Buckley with operating a nationwide mortgage foreclosure “rescue” scam that charged consumers as much as $1,200 to save their homes from foreclosure but failed to do so. The FTC seeks to bar them from further law violations and make them forfeit their ill-gotten gains.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants market their services through direct mail to consumers named in court records of foreclosure actions and through Internet Web sites, including www.program10.com and www.foreclosuresolutionsusa.net. Through the direct mail solicitations, the defendants warn that consumers could lose their home within 10 days, and they promise that they can stop foreclosure proceedings. In one of their letters they claim a 93 percent success rate.
Consumers who call a toll-free number are told that the defendants will provide an attorney and a case manager to help them avoid foreclosure, the complaint alleges. The defendants allegedly state that they have helped thousands of others, and they promise to guarantee in writing that they will save each consumer’s home. In some instances, consumers are permitted to pay about half the fee up-front and the balance within 30 days for an extra $50.
The defendants allegedly send a representative to the consumer’s home to close the sale and collect the up-front fee. In the agreement they require consumers to sign, they attempt to disclaim their guarantee that they will save the consumers’ homes, stating that they will work faithfully but not guarantee the success of their efforts. The defendants also provide consumers with a money-back guarantee, promising a refund if the consumer follows their instructions to save money and avoid lender phone calls. They also require consumers to sign a power of attorney form, authorizing them to represent the consumer in the foreclosure action.
In addition, the complaint alleges that the defendants instruct consumers to open a savings account and to deposit, every month until further notice from the defendants, the consumer’s monthly mortgage payment plus an additional 25 to 35 percent. They claim that the extra payment will be used to negotiate with the lender to reinstate the loan. After consumers have paid for the services, the defendants often don’t answer or return their calls. In otherinstances, the defendants’ representatives allegedly tell consumers that they are working on a solution, that they need more information from the consumer, or that no solution can be found.
According to the complaint, the defendants hire attorneys to respond to the foreclosure complaints filed against consumers. In many instances, the attorneys file the same form response to every complaint, usually without investigating consumers’ individual circumstances that might identify defenses or counterclaims unique to particular consumers. In many instances, the defendants do not stop foreclosure or save consumers’ homes, and many consumers who have contracted for their services lose their homes to foreclosure. Consumers who stop foreclosure through their own efforts sometimes learn that their lenders offer the same settlement terms regardless of whether the consumers negotiate on their own or through the defendants. Others learn that their lenders will negotiate only with them and not with the defendants.
The Ohio-based defendants are charged with falsely representing that they will stop foreclosure in all or virtually all instances, in violation of the FTC Act.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and
the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.,Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.