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Receive a mortgage notice in the mail? Look closely to see if it’s the real thing

10/19/2016 4:36:21 PM

Minnesota Commerce Department imposes $80,000 fine against an Atlanta-based mortgage company for sending misleading advertisements to Minnesotans

For Immediate Release:

ST PAUL – Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced that his agency has imposed an $80,000 fine against an Atlanta-based company that allegedly sent deceptive mortgage refinance solicitations to Minnesota homeowners.

“Minnesotans should carefully review direct-mail solicitations they get that may look like they come from their current lender or a government agency,” said Rothman, whose department regulates mortgage companies. “Some companies misrepresent themselves by disguising a mortgage loan sales pitch as something else in order to mislead consumers into responding. That’s against the law, and consumers need to be on the lookout.”

According to allegations in the Commerce Department consent order, MiLend, Inc., mailed numerous misleading mortgage refinance advertisements to Minnesota consumers.

The Department alleges these advertisements were designed to get recipients to respond by leaving the impression that the mailings came from either their current lender or a government agency.  Specifically, the ads included:

  • Words like “Statement Date” or “Statement Notice” that could lead recipients to believe the mailing is from their current mortgage company;
  • Type fonts and layouts that gave the appearance of being sent by a government agency;
  • The company’s name in very small type that could be easily overlooked, allowing the recipient to believe it was sent from their current lender or the government; and
  • Generic envelopes that didn’t show the company’s name but included a statement date and number, leading the recipient to believe it came from their current lender.

In addition to the $80,000 fine, the consent order requires MiLend, Inc., to comply with Minnesota law that prohibits false, deceptive or misleading advertising related to residential mortgage loans.

Rothman said these types of misleading advertisements are a persistent problem across the country.

Using home mortgage information collected from public records and credit reporting agencies, companies will mail refinance solicitations to homeowners urging them to call. To increase the response rate, some companies design these mailings as “look alikes” to make them appear as if they are legitimate notices from the recipient’s current lender or a government agency.

Rothman offers Minnesotans these consumer tips:

Take a closer look. Don’t be deceived by appearances. Read the fine print to see if what you’re getting is just a sales pitch rather than a legitimate notice from your lender.

Contact your current lender. If you are interested in refinancing or modifying your mortgage loan, first contact your current lender to see what it can offer. Then shop around and get offers from at least two other lenders, preferably recommended by friends or family members who have recently refinanced.

Watch out for scams. What you get in the mail may be more than just a sales pitch. It could be someone trying to lure you into a scam. Be on the lookout for identity thieves who try to get you to disclose personal information like date of birth, Social Security number and financial account information.

Beware of upfront fees. Another scam is when a company asks you to pay an upfront fee with the promise of lowering your interest rate or working with your current lender on a refinance. Requesting fees upfront before results are seen by the customer is illegal and should be a major red flag.  

Maintain a healthy level of skepticism. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Commerce is here to help

If you have a question or concern about a possible scam or fraud, contact the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us

Banking & Finance

Enforcement

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