More states are enacting laws to protect drowning homeowners.
With more and more homeowners drowning in an ocean of mortgage debt, federal and state authorities are stepping up efforts to beat back the sharks. As foreclosures have skyrocketed over the past year, the flim-flam artists have come out in full force, say officials with the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI. “This fraud virus has probably been around, but until recently, it didn’t flower into a major issue,” says Brad Elbein, regional director of the FTC. The commission notes that so far this year it has filed three major foreclosure-rescue cases, one of which involved thousands of victims. It filed only one rescue case during all of last year. “The scope is probably going to be potentially as large as the mortgage fraud problem itself,” Sharon Ormsby, the FBI’s chief of financial crimes, told USA Today. The FTC is warning struggling homeowners to be wary of those offering relief for a fee. First of all, they say, many government-certified credit and foreclosure counselors can help negotiate the waters of foreclosure free of charge. One common rescue company scam involves an offer to pay the mortgage while allowing the homeowner to live in the home and pay rent. After the owner signs over the deed, the company sells the house and snatches the equity. “These are relatively new scams that are growing and becoming an increasing problem,” said Gavin Gee, director of Idaho ’s Department of Finance. A new Idaho law requires rescue companies to give homeowners five days to change their minds. According to USA Today, at least 14 states have passed laws to protect floundering homeowners. For example, Iowa bars foreclosure rescue companies from charging fees up front; Florida requires that foreclosure-rescue firms include a cancellation provision in the agreement; Washington state requires rescue companies to give homeowners a five-day period to change their minds. In the year since the mortgage crisis erupted, more than 1 million homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure. A million more are teetering on the brink of foreclosure – 90 days past their mortgage due dates.
Farrakhan blasts the U.S. education system.
No wonder Black children are failing in school, Minister Louis Farrakhan told hundreds of listeners during a speech titled “Educational Challenge: A New Paradigm for the 21st Century,” which wrapped up a three-day education conference in Chicago . America ’s education system was never designed for them. Rather, he said, it was designed for a few well-to-do Whites and their children, and it has systematically alienated Black children and other people of color from the curriculum and refused to include them in a plan to advance their knowledge or their circumstances. “With a system of education that puts up the elite, good education was never designed for the masses,” Farrakhan said. “It is rooted in White supremacy. This is why we’re having all these problems in education, because the idea at the root of it represents a finite idea that has to end in order for something new and better to come in.” The fiery head of the Nation of Islam was joined on stage by another controversial minister, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who drew criticism against Sen. Barack Obama during the presidential primary for telling an audience at the senator’s Trinity United Church of Christ that Hillary Clinton believed she was entitled to the presidency because she is rich and White. In speaking to the packed house of parents, educators and activists, Farrakhan told parents to challenge the curricula of public schools and insist that they are studies that their children can relate to. “When the children can’t see themselves in the education, they’re not interested,” Farrakhan said. “Teach them who they are.” But education is not the only thing this nation needs, he added. “There are people coming out of college with degrees that say we have achieved what this world has to offer,” he said. “. . . [We are seeing] the collapse of the economy – but look at all the people with a doctorate in economics.” Farrakhan also praised Obama, who distanced himself from the minister in February, “The world is looking for change, so the brother has struck the right chord,” Farrakhan said.