CBS Local 2 stands for you with a word of warning about a home loan modification scam.
An elderly couple from Indio says they were targeted in such a scam in which they lost nearly $4,000.
The homeowners shared their story with CBS Local 2 in hopes of helping other people avoid getting ripped off.
“I got a cold call on the telephone,” said 72-year-old Sandra Murray as she talked about the experience.
In October 2013, Murray and her husband paid $3,800 to “Legal Aid Services” of Orange County, without researching the company.
A rep called the couple and offered to help them lower their mortgage payment for their Indio home, through the Home Affordable Mortgage Program”, also known as “HAMP”.
“I thought they were going to help me,” said Murray.
But about 2 months after paying the money to “Legal Aid Services”, Sandra says she asked for her money back, after her lender told her she was scammed.
After several months, lots of paperwork, dozens of phone calls, faxes and email, Sandra and her husband Bryan are still waiting for their money.
“I know its a scam, and I doubt that I will ever get my money, but maybe i can help somebody else, from falling to the same scheme,” said Sandra.
Searching the address for “Legal Aid Services online”, we found a picture of an office building at this location:
1525 E. 17th St. #K
Santa Ana, CA 92705
It is the same office address for Santa Ana attorney Floyd George Belsito.
On behalf of the Murrays, I called Mr. Belsito, and he quickly told me to call his lawyer.
But my repeated phone calls to Belsito’s lawyer were not returned.
Belsito’s lawyer is Chino attorney Aldo Arturo Flores.
On the Better Business Bureau website, “Legal Aid Services” scores the lowest grade of “F”, and 15 consumers filed complaints have been filed against “Legal Aid Services”, mostly regarding “problems with the product or service”, and 3 complaints for “advertising and sales issues”.
“Because of their name, “Legal Aid Services”, I thought they were there to help. I thought legal aid helped people,” said Sandra.
A representative for the State Attorney General says the Murray’s could take “Legal Aid Services” to court to get their money back, but the Murrays can’t afford an attorney.
What the Murrays didn’t know, and what everyone needs to know to avoid being caught in a similar scam, is that in California it is illegal for foreclosure consultants to collect money for services before they are performed.
Also, homeowners can work directly with lenders to modify their loans.
“I was angry that I fell for such a thing, and then I was angry that they couldn’t be up front with me,” said Murray.
In August, 2013, two California men and a man from New York were charged in connection with what is believed be the largest case ever involving loan modification schemes, similar to what the Murrays experienced.
Federal officials allege the men defrauded 8,000 homeowners in all 50 states out of $18.5 million dollars.