On Jan. 7, the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) announced the launch of a public campaign intended to inform Hawaii’s homeowners of possible options they have when facing mortgage foreclosure and fraud. The campaign is aimed towards the many people who are in fear of losing their homes as a result of the “Great Recession.”
It will be played on television and radio. A new website, the Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center (HFIC.Hawaii.gov) is also part of the campaign and is designed to “be a hub for foreclosure information for homeowners.” The site includes a question and answer section as well as contact information for legitimate and free housing counselors partnered with the state.
“We want them to know there is hope,” said DCCA Director Keali’i S. Lopez.
Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) Executive Director Bruce Kim agrees. “Many people who have fallen behind in their mortgage payments have stopped opening their mail and answering calls from the bank,” he said in a Jan. 7 news release. “These people need to get in touch with their lenders, particularly those involved in the national settlement, to see what they can do to improve their situation.”
The campaign also targets the growing problem of mortgage rescue fraud. Recently scammers posing as legitimate businesses have been taking advantage of distressed homeowners.
“They deliberately target homeowners who are worried about losing their homes and give them a message of hope while they plot and scheme to take their money,” Kim said, adding “HUD-certified housing counselors in Hawaii actually provide help to distressed homeowners at no charge.”
Wailuku attorney Jim Fosbinder, who has handled many foreclosure cases, said he was unfamiliar with the new campaign but remains skeptical about what effect it may have on homeowners who have lost their homes or are at serious risk of losing their homes. He said the most successful cases have involved lots of time and effort.
In these cases, he said, success hinged on not following the state’s advice to contact lenders, because the lenders themselves were the ones committing fraud. Fosbinder maintained that government aid generally has amounted to $8,000 at most per foreclosed family (though that varies), and refinancing benefits a $150,000 house by about $20 per mortgage payment—pocket money, and hardly enough to actually keep struggling families in their homes.
“Banks are winning the propaganda war at every level,” Fosbinder said, saying efforts like these were just another example. While banks have been bailed out and are receiving zero percent interest loans from the Fed, American families are left scrounging for support, he said. “It’s bottom up socialism,” he said: money from the people is redistributed to the banks.
Depressed? We certainly are. But you can find more details regarding recent settlements at HFIC.Hawaii.gov, though victims of fraud may find it wise to also contact an attorney.