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USDA warns homeowners not to respond to fraudulent letters offering payment plans

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Crime

AZTEC — A new scam is targeting low-income homeowners who have missed mortgage payments.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development is warning people who have home loans through its Rural Housing Service not to respond to letters offering a payment plan.

The letters offer assistance through the Home Affordable Modification Program and Making Home Affordable trial programs. According to the USDA, the letters claim that borrowers can access a payment plan if they complete a form that is included in the letter. This form includes personal information such as Social Security numbers.

The USDA is asking people who have received the letter to call 1-800-414-1226 to speak to a Rural Development representative. Anyone who suspects they may be a victim of identity fraud should contact law enforcement.

The Making Home Affordable program was launched in 2009. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the program helped homeowners avoid foreclosure by providing options like refinancing or modifying mortgages, receiving a temporary forbearance if they have lost their jobs, or selling their home through a short sale or deed-in-lieu. The Home Affordable Modification Program, also known as HAMP, was the cornerstone of the Making Home Affordable program. It expired in 2016 and has not been renewed. The program helped homeowners whose mortgage payment was more than 31% of their gross income through options like reduced interest payments or extending the term of the loan to 40 years.

USDA loans are available for low-income people purchasing homes in rural areas such as Aztec, Bloomfield, Kirtland and unincorporated parts of San Juan County. People who qualify for USDA loans can purchase homes with no down payment.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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