A record 5.4 million homeowners across the country are behind on their mortgages, and scam artists are looking to cash in, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Ads offering help lowering mortgage payments are everywhere. But these "loan negotiators" usually provide services that homeowners can handle on their own, for free—things like contacting lenders, writing letters, and sorting out financial records.
“People are in such a desperate place that it's low-hanging fruit,” an attorney said. California’s AG urged people to be “deeply skeptical” of any company seeking payment up front. Sometimes, such practices aren’t illegal, but "they're taking advantage of uninformed consumers to get money out of their ignorance," another lawyer said. Last week in California, two “negotiators” went to jail for up to six years for grand theft.