Loan modification bureaucracy paves path for scammers


Consumer fraud expert Bob Sullivan recently wrote about his efforts to help a woman who emailed him avoid getting scammed by one of the many "send us a check and we'll help you work with your lender to modify your loan" outfits that are popping up. He advised the lady to save her $3,000 and go with one of the free government programs. She ignored his advice, and he went to do some digging and the results were disturbing:

So I went back to the HUD site and looked up the counselor that was geographically closest to Mags. When I called, the phone went unanswered. There wasn't even an answering machine to leave a message, and an e-mail got no response.

The number of con-artists taking advantage of hopeless home owners underscores the need for government agencies to help. But you have to ask: Given that bureaucracy and bungling have so far made federal efforts to modify loan ineffective, is there really much hope for the much, much broader initiatives that are now being plotted? Are there enough accountants and ethical mortgage brokers in this galaxy to oversee a restructuring of a system where 7.88% of mortgage holders are beyond on their payments?

Even if Obama's plan for helping home owners is a good idea on paper -- and plenty of people argue that it isn't -- there seems to be little evidence that there is enough manpower to get it done competently. But we shall see.