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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

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For Release: March 6, 2011
For media inquiries only, contact: Brian J. Gottstein

Email: bgottstein@oag.state.va.us (best contact method)
Phone: 804-786-5874

 

Attorney General Cuccinelli warns Virginians about
mortgage foreclosure rescue scams, other fraud during
National Consumer Protection Week 

- 15- and 30-second radio PSAs are available for radio stations - 

EMBARGOED UNTIL SUNDAY, MARCH 6, 2011

RICHMOND (March 6, 2011) – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is joining government agencies and organizations across the nation to mark National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) from March 6-12.  During NCPW, groups nationwide are sharing tips – such as the ones below – that can help consumers avoid mortgage foreclosure rescue scams and other fraud, protect their privacy, manage money and debt, and avoid identity theft.

“Scammers are defrauding Virginians by millions of dollars each year,” said Cuccinelli, “These thieves are sometimes internationally based, beyond the jurisdictional reach of the attorney general’s office, so educating yourself is the first step in fighting these scams.”

Cuccinelli added, “Mortgage foreclosure rescue services have also become very prevalent in this tough economy.  While the service itself is not necessarily a scam, I brought suit against three Virginia companies in 2010 for allegedly charging upfront fees to consumers and for guaranteeing to stop scheduled foreclosures.  Charging upfront fees for these services and making guarantees that likely cannot be kept are both violations of Virginia law.”

Below is a list of some of the more prevalent scams seen in Virginia, with warning signs and tips to avoid and report them.  Additional information is available at the National Consumer Protection Week web site at www.NCPW.gov (the web site will be up year-round).  By going to the web site’s “Consumer Topics” page and choosing items from the right-hand menu (a blue box), you can find more resources about various frauds, tips for financial security, and other consumer issues.

It is difficult to assign a dollar amount to losses from all the various types of scams.  However, last month, the Javelin Strategy & Research group issued a report which indicates that in 2009, the dollar loss related to identity theft alone was $54 billion in the United States.  Reports show that scams and fraud of all types are on the rise.

Radio PSAs

The attorney general has produced 15- and 30-second radio public service announcements which stations can run throughout the month of March and beyond, directing consumers to the tips at the National Consumer Protection web site.  Please contact Brian Gottstein at bgottstein@oag.state.va.us and he can email you either MP3 or WMA files of the PSAs.

Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Scams

Desperate and elderly homeowners are scammed by some mortgage foreclosure rescue services and given false hopes of rescuing their homes.  Some victims not only lose their homes, but their savings, as well.  If a company tells you not to contact your lender or tells you to make your mortgage payments directly to the service rather than to your lender, this is a sign you are probably being set up.

Some other warning signs to look for:

Tips for avoiding mortgage foreclosure rescue scams:

For more information, go to these web sites: 
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/loans/prevention/rescue/index.html
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre42.shtm

Fake Debt Collection Calls

Scammers posing as debt collectors use threats and scare tactics to get a target to “pay up” quickly. Some pose as national banks or government agencies and may threaten to repossess a house, issue an arrest warrant, or even garnish one’s wages. No legitimate creditor or debt collector would threaten such things, because they all run afoul of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act rules. 

Therefore, consumers should arm themselves with this information:

Sweepstakes/Fake check scams

Consumers should be very suspicious about offers to:

Whatever the pitch, it may sound quite believable. These scammers practice their con every day, and can become exceptionally convincing. A major warning sign is if someone you do not know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back.  Many mailings arrive with realistic-looking checks that are fake.  Even though your bank may initially cash such a check, when it is determined to be fake months later, you will owe the money to cover it. 

Tips to remember:

For more information on fake check scams:
http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2009/june/auctionfraud_063009
http://www.fakechecks.org/preventionOverpayments.html

For more information on sweepstakes fraud:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/phonefraud/sweepstakes.shtml

Phone Scams – “Vishing”

“Vishing” is the technique that leverages fake Caller ID information to steal information or money from consumers over the telephone. 

Consumers need to know these tips to avoid vishing:

Phishing

Phishing strategies aim to deliver legitimate-looking email messages from your bank or some other company with which you have an account.  The message may be an ominous warning about the security of your banking information or some other warning that requires you to take immediate action. 

Remember these things to avoid this scam:

A copy of this news release may be found on the website of the Attorney General of Virginia at http://www.vaag.com/Media and News Releases/News_Releases/index.html.

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