State Attorney General Horne Issues Consumer Warning About New Mortgage Ploy

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PHOENIX — Arizona homeowners should be on the lookout for a mailing that appears to be a legal document, but may be a ploy against mortgage consumers, Attorney General Tom Horne said today.

The mailing comes in an envelope that appears to be an official legal or government document, but there is no company name or return address on the envelope or the letter itself.  A call to the toll-free number in the letter reveals the company as Fresh Start, based in New York.

The letter informs homeowners that they may be eligible to join a national lawsuit or make a potential legal claim against a mortgage lender.  The pitch from Fresh Start is that the homeowner must first pay $2,700 for the company to do “research” and then another $2,500 to retain a lawyer.  Such up-front fees are a violation of federal regulations and Arizona consumer fraud laws.

“This is the latest in a seemingly endless series of illegal or possibly illegal ploys related to Arizona’s mortgage crisis,” Horne said.  “Fresh Start claims to offer so-called audit services as a precursor to directing consumers to obtain legal assistance for mortgage holders who may have been victimized in the mortgage crisis.  But they first require as much as $5,200 up front from a homeowner. This is a blatant violation of Arizona law.”

Horne added, “The irony in this case is the consumer who brought this to the attention of my office has not been victimized in the mortgage crisis, but Fresh Start indicated he may be eligible for relief anyway and should pay the initial up-front fee for ‘research’.  Consumers need to be wary of this and other similar ploys.”

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