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For immediate release Thursday, July 10, 2008.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699.

Miller Says “Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline”
Can Help Flood Victims

Cedar Rapids. Eastern Iowa disaster victims who are having problems paying their mortgage should call Iowa Mortgage Help for free, confidential assistance, Attorney General Tom Miller said Thursday in Cedar Rapids. Iowans can reach Iowa Mortgage Help at the toll-free number -- 877-622-4866 -- or by visiting the website, www.IowaMortgageHelp.com.

“Iowa Mortgage Help can provide help to any Iowan who is fearful of facing a mortgage foreclosure,” Miller said. “If you lost your home in the flood, and can’t pay both your mortgage and your rent, you should call. If you lost your job and can’t make your mortgage payment, you should call. This free call could save your home.”

Miller said that his office established the hotline last fall to help Iowans who were facing foreclosure in the national housing crisis. But he stressed that the program also can help people who are facing mortgage problems as a result of floods and tornadoes.

“The key idea is that if you think you can’t make your mortgage payment, Iowa Mortgage Help may be able to help you,” Miller said. “The sooner someone calls, the better the chance we can help.”

Iowans who call the Hotline will talk to operators who will gather basic data and then refer the callers’ cases to one of the local counseling agencies that are part of Iowa Mortgage Help. Certified counselors at those agencies then will gather more in-depth financial information and will determine the level of assistance needed.

If a caller’s situation only requires fairly basic counseling, such as help with managing personal finances, the case will be handled by the local counseling agency. If a caller's situation is more complex -- and requires interaction with the mortgage servicer or lender -- the caller likely will receive further assistance from Iowa Mediation Service to facilitate a loan modification, if possible. The program does not provide cash housing subsides. More than 1,000 Iowans have formally applied for assistance from the program since March.

Iowa Mortgage Help is a partnership of the Attorney General’s Office, Iowa Finance Authority (IFA), Iowa Mediation Service (IMS), Iowa Legal Aid and the Iowa Home Ownership Education Project (IHOEP), which represents local counseling organizations.

Miller also re-emphasized other information
to protect consumers in the wake of the flood:

Check out a contractor before you sign a contract or pay any money. Try to deal with an established, reputable, local contractor. Check references. Ask the Attorney General's Office if it has received complaints (515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590.)

Get it in writing! Get several written estimates for the job, and get a written contract detailing work to be done, responsibility for permits, costs, and any other promises.

Don’t pay large sums in advance! Con-artists may just “take the money and run.” If you have to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. IF you suspect a scam, report it to the AG Office or local authorities.

Report price-gouging to the Attorney General. Iowa has a rule against price-gouging that goes into effect in counties with a disaster declaration. Price-gouging is charging very high prices that are not justified, and taking unfair advantage of disaster victims.

Beware of on-line schemes and charity scams. Miller said con-artists may set up web sites to make it look like they are legitimate or local contractors, and others may ask for donations but may give little of the money to actual flood or tornado victims.

Go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org for much more detail on preventing scams, for helpful links to FEMA and the Iowa Emergency Management Division, and for more information on safety tips for flood victims, the price-gouging rule, donation scams, etc.

If you have complaints or questions, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Des Moines, IA 50319. Call 888-777-4590 (toll-free) or 515-281-5926.

Go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org for much more information.

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