FTC Nixes Deceptive Mortgage Web Advertising

request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a federal district court has issued an order to stop an Internet-based operation that pretends to operate ‘MakingHomeAffordable.gov,’ the official Web site of the federal Making Home Affordable program. The FTC alleged that the defendants deceptively diverted consumers who searched online for the free government assistance program to commercial Web sites that offer loan modification services for a fee. ‘Homeowners who are down on their luck need help, not misdirection by Internet impostors,’ says Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC. ‘The commission will continue to work with the Treasury Department to move quickly against scammers who prey upon financially distressed consumers.’ According to the FTC's complaint, the defendants purchased sponsored links for their advertising on the results pages of Internet search engines. When consumers searched for ‘making home affordable’ or similar search terms, the defendants' ads prominently and conspicuously displayed the Web site address makinghomeaffordable.gov. Consumers who clicked on this advertised hyperlink were not directed to the official Web site for the Making Home Affordable program but were diverted to Web sites that solicit applicants for paid loan modification services. These commercial Web sites, which are not part of or affiliated with the U.S. government, require consumers to enter personally identifying and confidential financial information. The operators of these Web sites either purport to offer loan modification services themselves or sell consumers' personally identifying information to persons who sell such services. The FTC's complaint is against one or more persons who are unknown to the agency at this time because the defendants have cloaked their practices in the anonymity of the Internet. SOURCE: Federal Trade Commi


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