Experts say mortgage-related scams on the rise

FRESNO, Calif.

Financial counselors say the scam artists are targeting people who's first language isn't English, and they have sophisticated operations.

Jesus Moreno Castellanos spends a lot of time on the phone looking for the woman who took him for $2 thousand.

"People when they're scared they look for no matter what to save their houses," Castellanos said.

Castellanos told Action News it was two years ago, and he was desperate for help.

The interest on his Selma home was too high, the bank wouldn't negotiate, and at one point they lost his payment and he fell behind.

"I was scared they told me I owe 3 or 4 payments I tried to find somebody to help me," Castellanos said.

He found a woman who worked in a Fresno office. He showed us receipts - the money he gave her was supposed to lower his interest, maybe even get him a loan modification.

A few months later she was nowhere to be found. The people who run the office told Action News she took off and left no forwarding address..

"It was later she disappeared and I receive papers from Wells Fargo - my house is in foreclosure they're gonna sell it," Castellanos said.

That's when Clearpoint Credit Counseling stepped in.

"It breaks my heart. We try so hard to make sure we help homeowners," Martha Lucey of Clearpoint Credit Counseling said.

Lucey says in the last year they've helped thousands of homeowners with mortgage challenges and scams.

"It's illegal in the state of California to pay up front for mortgage modification services and yet consumers are still paying for services they're not receiving," Lucey said.

The Better Business Bureau says with foreclosures at an all time high sophisticated criminals are coming straight to our neighborhoods.

"Currently right now in 2011 there are 500 thousand foreclosures in California and the Central Valley is hardest hit," Better Business Bureau President Blair Looney said.

As for Jesus, Clearpoint is working with the bank to figure out his payments while he continues the search for his missing money.

Experts say there are some signs you should look for. You should never pay for help, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and don't sign anything you don't understand.

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