John Rebchook, Rocky Mountain News, January 9, 2008
Last week, a woman called me and asked me for the number of the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline.
I told her 1-877-601-HOPE.
She told me she wanted the number for her neighbor, not herself.
I told her that her neighbors should tell the counselors the truth, even if it is painful.
For example, once a distressed homeowner started the conversation with me by telling me he had never missed a mortgage payment. But now is wife is sick and he is on a permanent disability and they were strugling to make their payments.
Twenty minutes into our conversation, he revealed that he had missed the last three mortgage payments.
I reminded him of what he first told me.
“Oh, I meant I had never missed a payment, except for those three,” he said.
I relayed a short version of that story to the woman who wants to help her neighbor.
There was a pregnant pause, and then she told me what really was the crux of her call.
The couple next door had given a false Social Security number to the lender on their mortgage application. She said although they are hard-working, good citizens, she thinks they are in this country illegally.
They are understandably worried that their fraud will be discovered and there would be no help for them. .
She said her neighbors were worried that a counselor at the hotline would turn them into immigration officials. In other words, in addition to the prospect of losing their home, they fear being deported.
I said I didn’t think that would happen. But honestly, I told her I thought they could be out of luck as far as getting help from their lender, since they were guilty of mortgage fraud.
After I got off the phone with her, I wondered if I had given her the correct advice, so I called Zach Urban, the go-to guy for all things foreclosures.
“I have not seen any mortgage company that has any interaction with the INS,” Urban told me.
“And we certainly have no interaction with the INS,” Urban continued. “If someone came to us in that position, we would not report them to the authorities. From our perspective, we are not police officers; we’re housing counselors. We do not any process or protocol to turn them over the police.”
“They have presented false information,” Urban said. “As with any type of fraud, they have been dishonest from the start. What gets to the heart of the issue is that it may not have seemed like fraud when they lied, or maybe it seemed so easy, or maybe it seemed everyone was doing at the time, when there were such lax underwriting standards.”