Forensic loan audit warning

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PHOENIX - Joyce Stribling refinanced her home loan eight years ago, reducing her monthly mortgage payment by about $100.

“I thought everything was fine,” she said.

It was fine, until her loan started being sold from lender to lender during the housing boom.

Being passed around so many times caused her account to look like she was behind, she said.

“There is no way!” she said.

To help her sort everything out, Stribling hired an attorney who promised to perform what's known as a forensic loan audit.

For $2,000, the audit was supposed to be an in-depth review of her mortgage documents to make sure the terms were followed correctly.

“I brought my files to the adult center and he looked at it and said, 'Yeah, there's lots of mistakes in here,'” Stribling recalled.

Despite that assessment, Stribling said not much has been done and the attorney she hired just told her something she didn't expect.

“He said, 'Well you know I've been looking at it. There's nothing fraudulent here,' and I go, 'Well, why didn't you tell me that before you took my $2,000?'” she explained.

As it turns out, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning about forensic loan audits, claiming many were just scams.

Even the Better Business Bureau says it has seen a spike in complaints about the bogus practice.

Jaclyn Givens, who is with Money Management International, a Valley non-profit group that helps troubled homeowners, says her organization gets hundreds of calls from people like Stribling every day.

“It's definitely devastating,” Givens said.

Givens says forensic loan audits are the latest scam preying on already struggling homeowners, and that there's no evidence that if errors are found, your mortgage payment will be adjusted.

“Who knows if they're actually looking at your loan and trying to help you succeed,” she said. “Really, they already have the fee in hand.”

As for Stribling, after she complained, the forensic loan auditor she hired kept just $300, returning remaining $1,700.

Still, she says it's a steep price to pay for a service that did her no good.

“It’s a wolf in sheep's clothing is what it is,” she said.

3 On Your Side contacted Stribling's bank and they're now working with her to straighten all this out.

If you’re a homeowner looking for free, legitimate help, contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.