Weirdos, Freaks, Kooks: Is this Foreclosure or Match.com?

A few years ago, I was divorced and dating. While I ultimately got back together with my husband, the experience made a lasting impression on me. Finding myself suddenly single in my late 30s was a big life transition. I had the challenge of setting out to find “the one” long after I thought dating was part of my past. Reaching out, I was overwhelmed with advice. Some of it was very good and helped me become a more confident person. Most of it was negative and even the faint memory of it is enough to send me running for the nearest liposuction clinic/eyebrow wax/exercise tape/skin conditioner/make-over counter.

The people with the negative products to sell are not, for the most part, well-meaning bumblers. They are an industry that invests lots of money in teaching us to feel badly about ourselves so we will buy products we do not really need. Even though I have had compliments on my skin all my life, I found myself standing in a lotion aisle and feeling utterly confused. Within the same brand and price-point, I could work on my pasty complexion, even out my red spots, quit looking so shiny and greasy, fight my obnoxious body odor, work on my cellulite, reduce my corns, protect against winter’s drying effects, and so on. If I chose just the right combination, the labels implied, there was a slight chance I might avoid dying old, broke, and alone.

Just as cosmetics companies stand to make money from newly-single, nervous daters, there are lots of people out there waiting for people to make poor decisions based on the fear they feel when they fall behind on their mortgages. Just like a cosmetics manufacturer, a loan “auditor” knows someone who is feeling at the top of his or her game is not the best customer. They wait for weak times in the economy to take hold, forcing people out of their comfort zone to shop for solutions to a new problem. These people feel just as ill-equipped to handle financial and legal decisions as I felt to know whether to answer a Match.com message.

You have potential matches!

1. Hi! I am free-legal-site Amy Attorney. I give glib legal advice on a site that invites me to do so without learning all the facts of your case. There is a disclaimer warning you about this, but you won’t pay attention to that any more than you will pay attention to a first date’s being ten minutes late. The real motivation of the site is to advertise attorneys. It lets anonymous users rank the attorneys, so I had my mom log in ten times and give me kudos. Of course, she SAID I saved her home from foreclosure. (Well, I would if I had to—I live with her, a little perk that helps finance my fancy office and extravagant lifestyle!) But the great part is, you’ll just read the little inaccurate snippet of advice, decide I’m an expert, and call me Monday. You’ll be so eager to hire me, you won’t question why I need a $3,000 retainer or ask how much my fee is per hour. By the time you do, your house will be gone and you’ll have other things to worry about. Since you trust what you read about me on the website, you’ll never check with the state’s real disciplinary authorities to read about how I have been disciplined for taking advantage of people just like you.

2. Greetings! As an experienced Auditor, I, Armand, am eager for our first date. You should bring at least $1,500. I’ll prepare a report for you that sets forth violations your lender may have made based on a review of your loan papers. Then, I’ll refer you to Attorney Amy (you may have seen her on freecrappyadvice.com). By the time Amy soaks you for more money and does nothing, you’ll be out of cash and out of your home. Maybe you will never be able to afford a real attorney who would tell you most of the “problems” I pointed out don’t have a private cause of action, have a statute of limitations that expired months ago, and are certainly no excuse to quit paying your mortgage as Attorney Amy is going to advise. But by the time you figure all this out, if you do, you’ll be broke and homeless. So what do you really think you are going to do to get even with us? (Oh, that $3,000 Amy took from you for attending a single court date? Yeah, just so you know, you aren’t getting that back.)

3. Let’s get together . . . I’m class-action Carl. I file class actions with unfounded allegations. I recently filed a lawsuit stating a loan violated the Anti-Slavery Act and the Homestead Act. By the time you find out those laws don’t apply and don’t grant the relief I’ve requested, you’ll have waived all your legitimate rights to defend your foreclosure. You’ll feel good about having met me because I have a fancy downtown office, spent more on my suit than somebody should spend on a car, and sure do look successful! Happy homelessness . . . . Hey, thanks for the retainer fee!

4. Man, forget those guys up there. I’m Angela Davis. Well, not really, but we have pretty much the same bio—except I never went to prison for something I believed, wrote any books, or took any action designed to do more than line my pockets. I am a disbarred attorney, but that doesn’t matter because I am a community activist. I talk the talk, and that’s what counts. Now, quit all that fuss about your mortgage and vote for me!

5. I’m mortgage-modifying Marty. That’s right, for the low, low price of $1,500, I will negotiate with your bank. I won’t tell you I learned my best business tactics from dating: never call again! That’s right, I’ll take your money and disappear! At best, I won’t tell you that you can talk to your bank for free (I have no special qualifications) or that you can get help from the best experts for FREE through HUD-Certified Housing Counseling agencies at www.HUD.gov Maybe I’m a lawyer, making it seem even worse that I’m not looking out for your best interests, or maybe I’m just a guy off the street. Either way, thanks for the cash!

Just as Match.com offers unlimited losers, there are more variations on the above than I can set forth here. However, it is important to only work with legitimate attorneys. Those who engage in the kinds of tactics set forth above are responsible for the loss of more money and homes than are the banks who caused the foreclosure crisis in the first place.

If you are in foreclosure or worried about your mortgage, that is a fact of life, and you have to deal with it rationally. The freaks and weirdos know you are not at your best right now. Take time to find reliable attorneys and consult with HUD-Certified Housing Counseling agencies (www.hud.gov).

And consider doing something about that dry skin . . . .