CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Better Business Bureau issued a warning Friday to consumers about a Charlotte-based mortgage foreclosure rescue firm, The Lamb Group, that has been providing foreclosure and loan modification services nationwide.
Over the past few months, the BBB and the N.C. Attorney General's Office have been working together to investigate The Lamb Group.
On Dec. 2, 2009, the state of North Carolina filed a temporary restraining order in Superior Court against The Lamb Group. Charges filed indicate the business is soliciting, offering and engaging in foreclosure assistance and mortgage loan modification services in violation of N.C.'s Debt Adjusting law. The complaint alleges that The Lamb Group has engaged in a pattern of deceptive advertising and business practices.
Also doing business as U.S. Consumer Solutions, the company claims on their website to have a 97% success rate in preventing homeowners from losing their homes to foreclosure. In reality, The Lamb Group charged struggling homeowners an advance fee of up to $1,500, told them not to talk to their lenders, and then did little or nothing to help save their homes.
The Lamb Group (BBB Grade F) has had 10 complaints filed against it with the BBB from consumers living in 10 different states. Nine of these 10 complaints have been filed in the past six months.
The Lamb Group has used two addresses -- 6001 Gateway Center Drive, Suite 105, Kannapolis, N.C. and 2630 Lansing St. NW, Concord, N.C. The owner is Geoffrey Lamb and the telephone number is 704-785-8784.
Click here for the BBB report on The Lamb Group.
The changing economy, rising unemployment and downturn in the mortgage industry has led to booming business for debt adjusting firms. These businesses promise to rescue desperate consumers from different types of financial hardships, including bad credit and mortgage foreclosures, for an upfront fee.
For a struggling homeowner, the mortgage foreclosure 'rescue' service seems to be the answer to the homeowner's worst nightmare, said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. The problem is that these companies are violating N.C. law.
The N. C. Debt Adjusting Act of 2005 made it illegal for individuals or businesses to charge N. C. residents an advance fee prior to the completion of any type of debt adjusting service. However, it is not illegal in S.C. and the laws vary from state to state.
The BBB urges homeowners who are in danger of losing their home to foreclosure to contact their lender directly, instead of working with for-profit foreclosure and modification businesses.
Most banks and mortgage companies have modification programs in place to assist homeowners who are struggling with their mortgages, said Bartholomy. There are also local, non-profit organizations such as United Family Services and Alliance Credit Counseling, that homeowners can trust to assist them with their mortgage and credit issues.
Red Flags for Homeowners - Most homeowners who are in desperate situations are not deterred by what should be major red flags.
- Advance fees -- Mortgage foreclosure and loan modifications services that require an advance fee for their services are in violation of N.C. law.
- Cash only -- Many mortgage foreclosure services only accept cash payments for their services no personal checks, no cashier s checks, no money orders and no credit cards so that they leave no paper trail for the company and no recourse for the consumer. Instead, the homeowner is left in an even worse financial position with no way to recoup the money they have lost.
- Confidentiality clauses -- Beware of contracts that have a confidentiality clause, barring the homeowner from having any further contact with their lender or disclosing the terms of the contract to a third party.
- Rescue Promise -- Debt adjusting firms claim that they produce results that cannot be guaranteed.
Homeowners in need of help can call the BBB (toll-free in N.C. and S.C.) at 1-877-317-7236 or visit www.bbb.org for more information on foreclosure prevention and mortgage modification.