12:31 am
Tue October 7, 2008

Homeowners Pressured to Refinance

Buffalo, NY – The mortgage crisis is bringing opportunity for some lenders that hope to benefit from troubled consumers. And not all those marketing efforts are in the best interests of the homeowner.

The mortgage crisis has left many people worried about how to keep their homes. And some lenders are eager to suggest options.

Since the mortgage meltdown, Countrywide Home Loans has stepped up its marketing efforts. Terry Francisco is a spokesperson for Bank of America, the parent company of Countrywide. Francisco says they reach out to customers who show signs of default.

But not all those efforts are necessarily altruistic. People who aren't having any trouble at all paying their mortgages are getting lots of those calls from Countrywide. Mindy Bockstein is executive director for the New York State Consumer Protection Board. She says there have been about 800 complaints against Countrywide nationally over the past year registered with the Federal Trade Commission. Bockstein says many of those complaints involved what borders on predatory lending.

But she says it's not illegal. Francisco from Countrywide defended the marketing efforts.

He says they want what's best for the customer. But Bockstein with the Consumer Protection Board reminds people that lenders are working on commission. She's says they are trying to churn "product" during a tough downturn in the housing market.

She warns people not to trust lenders simply because they might have a longstanding relationship with them. And she says if people want the marketing calls and mail stopped, they can ask the lender to take them off the company's marketing list. And she says violations can be prosecuted.