Ohioans struggling to save their homes from foreclosure are now the targets of a new scam surfacing on the Internet. Website ads are popping up from companies pretending to be associated with the government foreclosure prevention initiative Save the Dream Ohio, Attorney General Richard Cordray warned today in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
Save the Dream Ohio’s real website, www.SaveTheDream.Ohio.gov, lists Ohio.gov at the top of the page and provides information for consumers who want to apply for Restoring Stability, the state’s newest initiative distributing more than $570 million in federal Hardest-Hit Funds for Ohioans who are unemployed or facing financial hardship and are at risk of foreclosure.
Some for-profit companies have purchased ads that appear to be from Save the Dream Ohio but are not.
For example, when one Ohio consumer typed www.SaveTheDream.Ohio.gov into a Google search box, the first result was a sponsored ad with the title www.SaveTheDream.Ohio.gov that actually took her to a separate, non-government website. She entered her information in the website without realizing the site was not associated with the real Save the Dream Ohio. Hours later, she began receiving phone calls from companies offering to help lower her mortgage payment in exchange for $2,200 to $3,000.
“The ads are actually from for-profit companies that are attempting to exploit the Save the Dream name,” said Cordray. “Ohio homeowners need to be wary of advertisements that promote an association with the free program. Save the Dream Ohio, under no circumstances, will ever require a fee for assistance and will not be associated with any company that has such a requirement.”
“Scam artists promise to rescue your home or guarantee to convince your mortgage servicer to stop foreclosure. Then, after charging a steep fee, they do nothing to help you and disappear with your money,” said Kimberly Zurz, Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce. “The best thing homeowners can do to protect themselves from foreclosure scams is to call Save the Dream Ohio at (888) 404-4674 or apply online at www.SaveTheDream.Ohio.gov to get a referral to a trusted HUD-approved counselor.”
Save the Dream Ohio’s services are always completely free to consumers. Consumers who are trying to access Save the Dream Ohio’s website should look for the “.gov” in the address bar of their Internet browser (not just in the title of a link). When in doubt, consumers should call the Save the Dream Ohio hotline at (888) 404-4674.
“We estimate that the Save the Dream Ohio initiative Restoring Stability will help over 46,000 Ohioans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments,” said Doug Garver, Executive Director of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. “Hopefully this consumer alert will help Ohioans avoid scam artists and connect with a trusted government resource for help.
For more information on Save the Dream Ohio or to apply for Restoring Stability, please visit www.SaveTheDream.Ohio.gov or call the toll-free hotline at (888) 404-4674. Misleading or suspicious ads should be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.SpeakOutOhio.gov or (800) 282-0515.