My neighbor received a call from a mortgage relief agency that stated they could help prevent a foreclosure for a fee. My neighbor was pleased someone could assist them and was ready to accept. I am concerned and suggested they check into the company first and consider government programs. Was this good advice?

Yes. Homeowners struggling to make payments on their mortgages and other debts should beware of con artists and scams that promise to save their homes and eliminate their debts.

These so-called foreclosure or mortgage consultants often use public notices or lists of distressed borrowers purchased from private companies to find their targets. They may offer to "prevent" foreclosures or "rescue" desperate homeowners from foreclosure through advertising, email, phone calls, or in person.

Financially troubled homeowners can avoid foreclosure prevention scams by working with housing counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Assistance from HUD-approved housing counselors is free, and homeowners can reach them by calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) or visiting

March 2011