Arizona homeowners targeted with illegal mortgage ploy
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne issued a consumer warning Wednesday against letters arriving in homeowners’ mailboxes urging them to pay up to $5,200 in up-front fees — $2,700 for “research” and another $2,500 to retain a lawyer — to check their eligibility to join a national lawsuit or file claims against a mortgage lender.
Such up-front fees are a “blatant violation of Arizona law” as well as certain federal regulations, Horne said in the warning statement.
The mailings appear to be legal or government documents, although they are inconspicuous about their origin, Horne said.
Neither the envelope nor letter inside contain a company name or return address. But the letter’s toll-free number recipients are asked to call to check their eligibility traces back to a call center for a firm called Fresh Start.
“This is the latest in a seemingly endless series of illegal or possibly illegal ploys related to Arizona’s mortgage crisis,” Horne said. “Fresh Start claims to offer so-called audit services as a precursor to directing consumers to obtain legal assistance for mortgage holders who may have been victimized in the mortgage crisis. But they first require as much as $5,200 up front from a homeowner.”
Horne also sent out a copy of one of these Fresh Start mailings (see them here) and, out of curiosity, I decided to call the Fresh Start toll-free number myself.
My call was answered by a friendly someone who only identified the name of the company after I asked. They first denied any knowledge of Horne’s consumer warning but then assured me it wasn’t their company at issue.
Our cordial conversation ended about 20 seconds later when the Fresh Start employee hung up on me after the word “reporter” left my tongue.
So, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I leave you, readers, with this final statement from Horne: “Consumers need to be wary of this and other similar ploys.”