CONSUMER ALERT: Attorney General James Issues Alert to Protect New York Homeowners From Deceptive Practices
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today issued alerts in multiple languages, warning New Yorkers to be wary of scams and other deceptive practices related to the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). The HAF is a federally funded program designed to assist homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. New York state has since received nearly $540 million in HAF funding that is available to eligible New York homeowners.
“As New Yorkers continue to recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing anyone needs is additional financial burden,” said Attorney General James. “The Homeowner Assistance Fund is a critical program that provides a vital lifeline to individuals and helps remedy some of the hardship caused by this pandemic. It is unfortunate, however, that there are bad actors out there looking to potentially exploit the integrity of this crucial program just to line their own pockets. But make no mistake: My office is committed to protecting the safety and financial welfare of all New Yorkers, and anyone who seeks to cheat our communities out of their money or their homes will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I strongly urge everyone to remain vigilant and to report these deceptive practices to my office immediately.”
In her continued efforts to protect New Yorkers and their homes, Attorney General James reminds New Yorkers of the following information:
- Applying for HAF is free, and homeowners are able to apply for HAF on their own with minimum documents needed: Homeowners should be cautious of anyone charging a fee to apply for HAF or promising HAF funds. No individual or entity can guarantee you HAF funds. For information on how to apply for HAF, please visit New York state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s (HCR) website. For free assistance with a HAF application, please visit New York state’s HomeOwner Protection Program (HOPP) website or call 855-466-3456.
- It is illegal to request upfront fees for mortgage assistance: Even attorneys cannot request an upfront fee for mortgage assistance unless it is for “retainer” services and the attorney has filed a notice of appearance on your behalf in an active court case.
Additionally, Attorney General James recommends the following tips to help homeowners avoid mortgage rescue and HAF-related scams:
- Be cautious of any online ads, telephone solicitations, or people coming to your door that promise you HAF funds or a mortgage modification, especially if they are not from a trusted government agency: Only HCR can approve you for HAF and only your bank or mortgage servicer can approve a loan modification.
- Be careful of solicitations from people or companies with out-of-state phone numbers or addresses, especially for attorneys: Only lawyers admitted to practice in New York can represent you in court.
- Do not give your personal financial information to an unrecognized caller, someone knocking on your door, or in response to an unexpected piece of mail: This includes your bank account number, Social Security number, or the name of your loan servicer. Your bank already has all of this information and will not ask you for it.
- Never pay an upfront fee for mortgage-related services: It is a violation of New York law to charge upfront fees for such services and violations should be reported to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
Any New Yorker who is aware of or believes that they have been a victim of a scam are encouraged to file a complaint with the OAG online or call 1-800-771-7755.
The alerts are available for download in: