SIGTARP Continues to Stop Online Mortgage Modification Scams

Mortgage & Real Estate

For the second straight week, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program has terminated more alleged fraudulent online mortgage modification scams that prey on vulnerable homeowners.

After working with Google last week to shut down 85 alleged fraudulent scams that advertised on its website, SIGTARP announced on Monday afternoon that it is stopping similar advertisements from being placed on Yahoo! and Bing. An additional 40 of these alleged scams have been prevented from endorsing their business on the other search engines.

According to SIGTARP, companies are allegedly utilizing banner ads and online search advertisements to promote their fraudulent businesses.

SIGTARP said these companies are charging struggling homeowners a fee in exchange for false promises of lowering their mortgages through the TARP-funded Home Affordable Modification Program.  

The most common scams included telling homeowners to stop paying their mortgages and to cease all contact with their lender. Also, the schemes included diverting mortgage payments to the scammers, transferring property deeds and releasing personal financial information, SIGTARP said.

In some cases, SIGTARP said the websites claimed to have an affiliation with the federal government.

Microsoft, which founded Bing and whose technology powers Yahoo! Search, has cooperated with SIGTARP by suspending advertising relationships with more than 400 agents associated with the possible mortgage fraud schemes. Additionally, Microsoft has blocked all future advertising for the 125 scams that have already been identified by SIGTARP.

Google has already suspended advertising relationships with more than 500 Internet advertisers related to this scheme.

“SIGTARP’s work in cutting off these Internet advertisements will immediately decrease the scope and scale of these scams by limiting their ability to seek out and victimize struggling homeowners,” said Christy Romano, deputy special inspector general for SIGTARP.

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