Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has announced a "zero tolerance" campaign against mortgage scams and has filed lawsuits against two businesses that sent allegedly misleading direct-mail advertisements for mortgage refinancing to consumers.
The two lawsuits follow a similar lawsuit Koster filed against a California-based mortgage broker doing business in Missouri, as well as coordinated actions by other states and the Federal Trade Commission.
In his latest actions, the state filed suit against Goldstar Home Mortgage, which sent direct-mail letters to consumers with the consumers' own bank name at the top of the letter, making it appear that the consumers' bank was encouraging them to refinance.
In addition, Goldstar allegedly marketed mortgage-refinancing products that were inappropriate for the homeowners they targeted. In at least one case, the Attorney General says the business offered a loan that likely would have left a homeowner with a mortgage that was higher than the home was worth.
Koster's second lawsuit was filed suit against Oxford Lending Group, which allegedly made deceptive representations regarding the "Economic Stimulus Act of 2008" in its mailing to appear that consumers had a special opportunity to refinance, and using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development label and name to mislead the recipient that the letter was related to the federal government.
"This Attorney General's office will have zero tolerance for any mortgage broker or refinancing lender that uses deception to lure consumers into doing business with them," Koster said. "The Attorney General's office will use all its powers to investigate and prosecute businesses that use deception and fraud in advertisements to Missouri consumers."
Koster said he is concerned that consumers are particularly vulnerable to mortgage scams now, as foreclosures continue to increase, interest rates are at historic lows for refinancing, and the federal government is launching its plan to help struggling homeowners.
He noted that while the federal government's program puts measures in place that can help homeowners, unscrupulous businesses are luring consumers into scams that can actually leave them in worse financial condition. Koster warned that seniors are particularly at risk for such scams.
"Increasingly, mortgage brokers are using deceptive ploys to draw Missourians back into the refinancing game," Koster warned. "Our goal is to alert consumers that these scams are out there and to sue every mortgage broker who crosses the line."