Seminar offers advice about how to prevent foreclosure

 
 
Published: 5/3/2009 12:00 AM

Patrick Matsuda is in no threat of the bank foreclosing on his home.

And the Des Plaines man, who was recently laid off his job as a truck driver, would like to keep it that way.

Matsuda joined about a dozen people Saturday at Frontier Park in Arlington Heights for a foreclosure seminar sponsored by state Rep. Mark Walker, a Democrat from Arlington Heights. Representatives from Chase, Bank of America and the Illinois Attorney General's office spent the morning answering questions about the scope of the problem and what people can do to keep from losing their homes.

"The main thing we want to do here is help people stay in their homes," said Brenda Graver, an assistant attorney general. "People at risk of foreclosure need to have a realistic strategy of what to do."

Veronica Spicer, another assistant attorney general, said her office has been increasingly working to fight off fraudulent companies passing themselves off as mortgage rescue consultants. Among the advertisements her office have seen are mailings designed to look like material sent from a government agency or the potential victim's own mortgage lender. Some pass themselves off as not-for-profit agencies. Nearly all of them ask for an upfront fee in exchange for "services" that often end up complicating the situation.

"In many cases these people just take the money and don't do anything," Spicer said. "Others tell homeowners to just stop making (mortgage) payments. ... It's like playing Whac-A-Mole. We've got hundreds of these people on our radar, but unfortunately there are thousands of these groups operating."

Yves Mombeleur, an outreach manager for Chase, said his bank is in the process of opening a "homeownership center" where people in danger of foreclosure can meet face-to-face with bank representatives to try and work out a mortgage modification.

"It's a chance to talk to a real live person instead of calling the dreaded 800-number," he said. "We don't want to be in the business of owning properties. I can tell you that's definitely part of our mission statement."

Saturday's foreclosure seminar was scheduled in Arlington Heights, in part, because of statistics that showed the city as having the most foreclosures of any municipality in Walker's district, said Gretchen Rydin, a community outreach coordinator for Walker's office.

Roughly 2,000 homes in Arlington Heights were listed in foreclosure during the last year, Rydin said. But she added that it wasn't clear how many homeowners were ultimately displaced.