The state has issued a warning about a Florida-based company investigators say has been preying on homeowners in Hawaii.
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Officials say the scam artists are bilking thousands of dollars from Hawaii homeowners facing foreclosure, and have issued some tips for those who have paid the company money.
The state says between 2009 and 2010 Homeowner Legal Assistance Association used local agents to contact distressed Hawaii residents.
The residents were referred to New York attorneys who promised to help them modify their mortgages for a fee of several thousand dollars. The lawyers were not licensed to do business in Hawaii and no help was given.
State officials say they believe more than $1.5 million was taken from Hawaii consumers and some more than once.
"A couple actually lost their home to foreclosure after paying these New York attorneys almost $3,000. The local agent came back to their homes after they lost their homes in foreclosure and signed them up again with the same lawyer. That's how sad this situation is," said Bruce Kim, Executive Director of Consumer Protection.
Kim says there is no fee to get the counseling needed to help you either save your home or at least exit foreclosure quickly. There are several counseling agencies in Hawaii that are approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Dennis Oshiro is with one of them; Hawaii HomeOwnership Center. He offers this advice for homeowners in need.
"I think of this one rule, it's sooner than later because in this situation time is money. The longer you wait or procrastinate, the more it's going to cost in the end. Take action sooner than later and again it won't cost you anything to find out," said Oshiro.
Only a handful of people have filed complaints with Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs against Homeowner Legal Assistance Association.
Kim says there is a possibility the money paid out to New York attorneys could be repaid.
For more information on how to contact the state to get your money back or if you are a distressed homeowner in need of free counseling, click here for the DCCA web site or call 587-4272.
Here are a few other links to assist those that believe they have been a victim of mortgage scam: