Online Mortgage Modification Scams Shut Down

WASHINGTON, DC – The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) today announced that it has shut down online mortgage modification scams that prey on vulnerable homeowners through Web banners and other Web advertisements on Yahoo! and Bing. Last week, SIGTARP announced that it had shut down similar online mortgage modification scams advertised on Google. SIGTARP investigates, among other things, mortgage modification schemes in which companies charge struggling homeowners a fee in exchange for false promises of lowering the homeowner’s mortgage through TARP’s housing program known as the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). In the past week, SIGTARP has shut down 125 of these alleged scams advertised on Yahoo!, Bing, and Google.

Microsoft, which founded Bing and whose technology powers Yahoo! Search, in cooperation with an ongoing criminal SIGTARP investigation of these scams, has joined Google in suspending advertising relationships associated with the scams identified by SIGTARP. Microsoft suspended advertising relationships with more than 400 Internet advertisers and agents associated with the alleged online mortgage fraud schemes and related deceptive advertising and has blocked all future advertising associated with the 125 scams identified by SIGTARP. As announced last week, Google has also suspended advertising relationships with more than 500 Internet advertisers and agents associated with 85 of the alleged online mortgage fraud schemes and related deceptive advertising that were advertised on Google. Some of these scams may have been advertised on one or more search engines.

“Many homeowners who have fallen prey to these scams were enticed by Web banner ads and online search advertisements that promised, for a fee, to help lower mortgage payments,” said Christy Romero, Deputy Special Inspector General for SIGTARP. “SIGTARP’s work in cutting off these Internet advertisements will immediately and dramatically decrease the scope and scale of these scams by limiting their ability to seek out and victimize struggling homeowners. SIGTARP will investigate and hold accountable criminals who defraud homeowners in connection with HAMP, while doing everything we can to stop homeowners from becoming victims in the first place.”

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