Published — April 7, 2009 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Why won’t FTC name suspected scammers?


The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on predators who prey on distressed homeowners facing foreclosure. The Commission has filed civil enforcement actions against 11 companies that operate fraudulent foreclosure relief programs and sent warning letters to 71 others it claims may also be running scams. Problem is, the FTC in its announcement Monday declined to release the names of those 71 companies.

Homeowners wondering if they may have relied on a suspect company to help save their houses will have to wait. That’s because none of the 71 companies have been charged with a crime, said Mitchell Katz, an FTC spokesman.

“We are warning (those companies) that they should modify their conduct,” Katz said in an interview. He said it is unfair to the companies to let the public in on the agency’s fears without more proof. “The problem is we are not alleging any law violations. It could be dangerous to the companies’ reputations.”

As foreclosures continue to rise, so have the number of companies marketing foreclosure assistance programs. And so have the scams, which include programs charging high up-front fees without results and companies that create names that are similar to government groups to try to lure unsuspecting customers.

The 71 companies that received letters have not been charged, but the FTC at least suspects they are breaking federal law, as it noted in its press release. In the release, the FTC says it uncovered the companies by surfing the Internet and reading spam advertisements that target financially distressed homeowners and make false claims. In addition to claiming affiliation with homeowners’ lenders and federal government programs, the suspected scammers may have violated federal laws by touting guaranteed results and success rates over 90 percent, according to the release.

During a Monday press conference, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the 71 companies have been warned. “We’re putting (those 71 companies) on notice that unless they change their ways, they’re next; and we’re working with other government agencies, non-profits, and mortgage companies to reach out to our neighbors in distress with the details of how to get help,” he said.

But how do you know if you need help?

Read more in Inequality, Opportunity and Poverty

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