ABC News first wrote about Ingrid Soriano in September, when The ABC News Fixer and Brian Ross highlighted her mortgage problem on "Good Morning America" and "The Lookout." Ingrid's encounter with a bogus mortgage modification service had left her in danger of losing her home. The following is The ABC News Fixer's final update on Ingrid's mortgage issue and the happy ending she was waiting for.
Dear ABC News Fixer: I was ripped off by a company called RMA Legal Network of Holbrook, N.Y. This company promises it will help people lower their mortgage payments through the HAMP modification program that President Obama created.
They said they would help me for a small fee of $2,800. After one year of lies, today I'm facing foreclosure, and now there is no more RMA Legal Network to help me. I don't want anyone else to go through what I am going though. Please help me stop these people.
- Ingrid Soriano, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Dear Ingrid: What a journey this has been. We first heard from you in April, when you came to us with news that a "mortgage rescue" company had taken your money and disappeared. Now, six months later, we can report the good news: Your mortgage nightmare is finally over!
A little background: Last spring, you told us that after taking your $2,800 and stringing you along for a year with promises that they'd get you lower payments, RMA Legal Network suddenly stopped answering its phones.
Worse, your lender, Bank of America, was taking steps to foreclose. Looking back, that wasn't surprising – after all, the bank hadn't gotten paid. RMA had instructed you to not communicate with the bank, which only exacerbated things.
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Once we got the full picture of the problem, The ABC News Fixer got down to business. First, we called an executive at Bank of America and alerted her to your situation. We told her about the hundreds of consumer complaints against RMA and how its founder, Rory Michael Alarcon, had already settled a lawsuit in New York by agreeing to stop practicing in the mortgage modification business and pay $50,000 in restitution. (Alarcon claimed, in a lawsuit, that the people he hired for his mortgage modification business were to blame, and that they did not follow his instructions and lied to consumers.)
We explained that this was the house you had moved to from the Bronx, to give your kids a better life, and that even though you had struggled a bit after your divorce, you were now working full-time and able to make regular payments.
Bank of America started documenting everything, and they followed up after your loan was transferred to Green Tree Servicing.
In July, Green Tree came through with a trial modification, which lowered your payments by about $300 a month. After three months, that arrangement finally became permanent -- you signed new loan documents in mid-October and the foreclosure case was dismissed in court.
Your new loan got stretched to 40 years, which isn't ideal compared to the 30-year loan you previously had, but you got a much lower interest rate (4 percent compared to 5.625 percent) and you'll be able to keep your house.
You told us you hope to prevent other homeowners from falling for the "mortgage rescue" pitch of companies like RMA Legal Network. Sadly, losses to American homeowners from these schemes total at least $83 million, according to the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network, which gathers complaints in partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement.
Homeowners who are struggling should check out www.preventloanscams.org to learn how to spot fraudulent offers and find help. A few red flags: A company guarantees it can obtain a modified mortgage, but only if the consumer pays them a large fee in advance. They may also tell homeowners to stop paying their current mortgage and stop communicating with their lender.
Other good sites are www.HUD.gov, where homeowners can find certified housing counselors, and www.hopenow.com, a joint project of the lending industry and non-profit agencies.
- The ABC News Fixer
Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.