With more than three million foreclosure filings in 2008 and no end in site, people are desperate. Sadly, it turns out these people are prime targets for financial predators.
After years of renting, the Mizer family bought a house in 2005 for nearly $88,000.
Two years later, their mortgage shot up way beyond what they could afford.
"The house payments doubled in six months to $1847.
They looked for refinancing from more than 40 lenders with no success.
Then, they got a letter from a mortgage restructuring firm that claimed to have a 95.5% resolution success rate in stopping foreclosures.
"I remember us hugging, baby we're going to get to keep the house, telling the kids we're going to be able to keep the house." said Kari Mizer.
The company charged more than $1300 upfront and said it would handle everything.
But the Mizers say that's the last they heard.
A month later their bank started foreclosure proceedings, telling them it had never been contacted by the company.
Consumer Reports' Andrea Rock says the Mizers were a victim of one of the most common financial traps that are flourishing these days.
"So-called foreclosure rescue firms comb the public record for pending foreclosures and they prey on people who are desperate to hang on to their home." said Rock.
To avoid foreclosure traps, Consumer Reports says:
--Watch out for unsolicited offers
--Be wary of demands for upfront fees before service is provided
--and stay away from any service that advises you to stop contact with your lender or that asks you to transfer title of your home.
Consumer Reports says if you're in mortgage trouble, you need help fast...but legitimate help.
"Get in touch with a government-certified counseling agency that can help you negotiate with your lenders," said Rock.
As for the Mizers, they've found reasons to be grateful.
"We instill with our kids, regardless of the house, wherever we live, as long as we're together, we're okay." said Mizer.
Consumer Reports says to find a government-certified counseling agency, call the Department of Housing and Urban Development at (800) 569-4287 or go to its web site at www.hud.gov/foreclosure.
The key is not to delay. As soon as you realize you're running into trouble making your mortgage payment, get help.