An out-of-state foreclosure rescue operation that has been contacting Ohio residents through online advertising and telephone and mail solicitations is facing a lawsuit for doing little or no work to help consumers after taking their money and promising to help.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the lawsuit against Ryan Zimmerman, Consumer Advocates Group Experts, LLC, and Advocates for Consumer Affairs Experts, LLC for violations of Ohio's consumer laws, including failure to deliver and failure to provide refunds for home loan modification assistance.
DeWine seeks consumer restitution, injunctive relief and civil penalties.
"In these difficult economic times, it is reprehensible for a company to target struggling consumers, take their money, and provide no assistance," DeWine said. "My office won't stand by and allow companies like these to prey on vulnerable Ohioans by promising help and delivering nothing."
Ryan Zimmerman, previously of Culver City, Calif., operates Consumer Advocates Group Experts and Advocates for Consumer Affairs Experts.
Through online advertising and telephone and mail solicitations, the businesses offered to help consumers avoid foreclosure by working with the consumers' lenders to negotiate a loan modification or otherwise adjust their debt. After accepting the payments, the businesses did little or no work to help consumers. The businesses also failed to provide refunds.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau, and Consumer Sentinel have received about 150 consumer complaints nationwide against the businesses. In their complaints, consumers state they paid up-front fees for the loan modifications ranging from $1,875 to $2,700.
The Ohio Attorney General's lawsuit charges the defendants with multiple violations of the Consumer Sales Practices Act, including failure to deliver and failure to provide refunds. Additionally, it charges the defendants with violating the Debt Adjusters Act and the Telephone Solicitation Sales Act.
DeWine offers the following advice to consumers who are worried about foreclosure:
* Do not pay up-front fees for help avoiding foreclosure or obtaining mortgage relief. By law, companies may not charge or accept fees for mortgage assistance relief services until consumers receive and accept a loan modification offer from their lenders.
* Research a business before providing any payments or personal information. Check to see if consumers have filed complaints with the Ohio Attorney General's Office and check a company's reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
* Contact Save the Dream Ohio for free foreclosure assistance. Call (888) 404-4674 or visit www.savethedream.ohio.gov.
Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling (800) 282-0515.