Foreclosure Chasers

April 7, 2008 9:11:06 PM PDT
They claim they'll save your home if you're being foreclosed on, but local authorities say most so-called foreclosure rescue services are rip-offs.At a time when foreclosures are a dime a dozen, many companies are preying on homeowners at their weakest moment. In the last year, the Illinois attorney general's office has sued or investigated about a dozen foreclosure rescue services. The AG's office says the latest one it's suing violated the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and used religion to sell its services.

At first, Reverend Walter C. Armstrong wouldn't answer questions about his company's promises to save people like Evelyne Allen from foreclosure.

Armstrong is a bishop and a reverend at Prayer of Faith Church on the city's West Side. He also ran Victory Consulting, a now defunct company that the AG says went door to door, passing literature to prospective clients.

"These types of organizations usually don't go out of business. They usually change names or continue. We want an order from the court saying that this kind of behavior this mortgage rescue scheme can't continue," said Michelle Garcia, Asst. Attorney General, Illinois.

In this lawsuit, the attorney general alleges Victory Consulting gained consumers' trust by saying the company was a faith?based organization

"So the consumer isn't likely to answer a lot of questions, isn't likely to demand documents because of this sort of aura of faith and trust," said Garcia.

The lawsuit says homeowners in foreclosure would sign their home over to a "surrogate owner" and then continue to pay the mortgage to the surrogate owner.

"If I could get my credit rating back up then i could get my house back in my name in about six months," said Evelyne Allen.

Allen says Armstrong told her she would get the title back in her name within six months to a year and her home would be saved. Allen says through Victory Consulting, she paid the surrogate owner $30,000 over a two-year period. She eventually found out the home had been foreclosed on again under the surrogate home owner's name. She was kicked out and now rents another home.

"I was so down in the dumps. It hurt so bad. It did," Allen said holding back tears.

We called Armstrong several times for three weeks to try to schedule an interview. He didn't get back to us, so we showed up at his current tax filing business where he also refused.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office is investigating five additional complaints filed against Armstrong. In each case, homeowners said they paid anywhere from $600 to $14,000 only to lose their homes anyway.

Late Monday, Armstrong decided he wanted to talk on camera after all. He blamed Evelyne Allen for her foreclosure, saying she was $13 short on some of her payments. Armstrong also said he tried his best to refinance the home in Allen's name but that her credit rating was too low because she had a record of two missed car payments. He also credits himself for keeping her in her home when he says she should have been foreclosed on the first time.

"Her scraping by is not my responsibility. She asked us to help keep her in her house. Keeping her in her house is her doing what she needed to do to stay there. We were just the conduit," said Armstrong.

Armstrong also says other consumers who complained failed to follow the program and he says he has saved people from foreclosure.

Bottom line - when it comes to foreclosure rescue services, consumer experts across the country say most of them don't work. You're better off contacting your lender on your own. The lawsuit against Victory is also attempting to get back the money consumers lost.

Read the full lawsuit

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