Op-Ed
by Albert Baldeo
Feb 03, 2009 | 3186 views | 0 0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fake stop signs, with messages and contact numbers purporting to "Save Your Home," which are deceitfully designed to look like legitimate stop signs at busy intersections, have increased by at least 75 percent over the years, and are already an illegal industry on their own.

Their main purpose is to get your attention and then deceptively convey contact information for various companies purporting to offer foreclosure help services to unsuspecting homeowners. The reality is that they prey on their victims, who are faced with losing their homes, by posting illegal ads on public property. They have become a dangerous evil in our community.

In 2007, the Department of Sanitation issued over 32,000 illegal posting violations citywide, against many of the so-called "real estate solutions company" and "Save Your Home Programs." This situation, fueled by the sub-prime mortgage mess, cries out for legislative action, because there is a deeper social and economic problem created by the proliferation of these illegal posters that actually causes homeowners to lose their homes, and indeed, their lives, in a few disquieting heart beats.

Most of these companies are bogus scam artists, who do not have the necessary expertise or resources to assist homeowners. They exist only on the cheap face of the illegal sign, and have no office, staff, licenses, bond, security, or training to conduct business. Many desperate homeowners have been preyed upon, lured, and scammed out of their homes and their life savings, and have been unable to locate, sue, or collect any compensation from these shell companies.

This scourge of illegality and attack on homeowners is a fast-growing cancer and must be curtailed now. They also ply their trade through unsolicited phone calls, anonymous fliers, and by operating through numerous illegal shell entities, undocumented companies, and unregistered groups. They are invisible or ghost corporations, and those that exist have no assets to satisfy any judgments against them. It is situations like these that inspire me to become a legislator, because these problems cannot be adequately addressed in the present legal system, however zealous our legal representation is. Legislative action is urgently needed to solve these social and economic crises.

In addition to getting Sanitation Department enforcement officials to enforce the law against anyone who posts any signs on any structure that is public property, we should table legislation outlawing these bogus operators, who are becoming more and more institutionalized. Paying a fine of $75 for the occasional penalty, which is never paid, is just not enough to deter these troublesome predators.

Under the guise of advertising foreclosure help services, many of these companies unwittingly trick troubled consumers into signing over their homes, or advancing large sums of money to them before they disappear on their unsuspecting victims. Although scammed, consumers still remain responsible for the rest of their mortgage, surely double jeopardy.

Some of these unscrupulous individuals trick their victims into signing all types of documents purporting to help the homeowner, such as loan modification agreements. They target the most vulnerable among us with this scam, preying on the fear of homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

We demand that such legislation with adequate criminal penalties be pushed quickly, and a registry be established to publicize and identity these individuals and their illegal enterprises.

Meanwhile, anyone who believes they may have been the victim of a foreclosure rescue scam should call their elected officials, the district attorney, the Consumer Protection Board, the New York State Attorney General's office, or the New York State Banking Department for assistance.

Editor's note: Albert Baldeo is an attorney and community advocate. He is a former State Senate candidate for the 15th District. Comments can be sent to his email at AlBaldeo@aol.com.

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