Federal regulators warn mortgage lenders to clean up their act. Learn more.
Federal regulators are moving to protect older Americans, veterans and other consumers from falling victim to potentially misleading advertisements by mortgage lenders, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, home builders and others.
“Some advertisers will use your military or veteran status as a way to approach you, promising special deals or implying VA approval,” reads a blog posted yesterday by veterans and aging specialists at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). “Others will use the lure of a ‘no-payment’ reverse mortgage to troll for older Americans desperate to find a way to stay in their home when they can no longer afford a mortgage payment. “
The CFPB and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday issued more than 30 letters to banking and real estate professionals warning them to clean up their act. The CFPB is now investigating six companies that may “committed more serious violations of the law,” according to a statement from the agency.
“Misrepresentations in mortgage products can deprive consumers of important information while making one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives,” Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, said in a statement.
The actions result from a sweep conducted jointly by the CFPB and the FTC of 800 randomly selected advertisements for mortgage loans, refinancing and reverse mortgages appearing in newspapers, on the Internet and in mail solicitations. The agencies reviewed the ads for violations of the 2011 Mortgage Acts and Practices Advertising Rule, jointly enforced by the CFPB and the FTC. Among the problems they found:
· Reverse Mortgages: Potentially misleading ads stated a consumer would have no payments in connection with a reverse mortgage, a product available to home owners ages 62 and older. The CFPB notes that consumers with a reverse mortgages are commonly required to make regular tax and insurance payments, and may risk defaulting on their mortgage if they don’t.
· Available Cash: Some ads contain a mock check or suggest a consumer has been pre-approved to receive cash when the refinance their mortgage or take out a reverse mortgage. Typically, a consumer would have to complete a number of additional steps before qualifying for such a loan, according to the CFPB.
· False Affiliations and Misleading Rates: Some ads contain official looking seals or logos falsely indicating a government affiliation. Other ads promoted low mortgage rates that differed from the actual terms of the product offered.
“You know the old saying: ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’” wrote CFPB bloggers Holly Patraeus and Skip Humphrey. “So please, be cautious. If you get an ad that sounds a little (or a lot) too good to be true, you should get more information from a trusted source before you respond to the offer.”