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How to avoid the long list of housing scams

Thursday - 3/24/2011, 5:56am  ET

Darci Marchese,

WASHINGTON - As long as there are struggling homeowners, there are scammers hoping to cash in.

Often you will hear promises of specific loan modifications or someone will promise to keep you in your home, even if you can pay your current mortgage.

How many of those promises are actually scams?

"Too many to even shake a stick at," says Lisa Butler McDougal with the Sowing Empowerment and Economic Development or SEED.

McDougal says scammers do a great job getting their word out, sometimes better than legitimate groups.

"The scammers have more resources than we do. They can advertise while a lot of times, the non-profit agencies are not able to do that."

There's two new websites that are designed to help people report scamers: Loan Modification Scam Alert and Prevent Loan Scams.

Experts say the best way to combat scammers is by reporting them.

"Report, report, report," says Marian Siegel with Housing Counseling Services Inc.

She says when you hear an empty promise, such as "Don't worry, I'll solve it for you, I'll keep you in your home," it should be a red flag that it's a scam.

Siegel says HUD-certified counselors can't promise someone he will avoid foreclosure or get a loan modification.

Certified counselors also are free. Scammers often ask for money up front.

"If someone tells you that it's going to cost you $1,500 to get a loan modification -- if you have $1,500, pay your mortgage and don't fall victim to that."

You can find free HUD certified counselors by going to these websites:

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)