Actor Tim Dekay, known for his role as FBI Special Agent Peter Burke on the TV series "White Collar," is helping the FBI send an important message to homeowners.
The FBI has released new public service announcements to warn homeowners about fraud schemes targeting Americans trying to modify home loans.
According to the PSA, fraud schemes have reached unprecedented levels. Last year, con artists swindled thousands of homeowners out of millions of dollars. The year-long Distressed Homeowner Initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants charged, including 172 executives, in 285 federal criminal indictments filed in U.S. District Courts across the country.
More than 73,000 homeowners nationwide had been victimized by fraud schemes, the government said. Law enforcement estimated the losses at more than $1 billion.
Schemes often involve con artists who promise homeowners that foreclosure can be avoided, for a fee, by having "investors" purchase their mortgage or by transferring their title to an entity involved with the fraud.
FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins said many cases were concentrated in Southern California. During September, 11 people were indicted for their alleged roles in a loan modification scheme that victimized more than 4,000 people. Many of them lost their homes to foreclosure.
U.S. home foreclosures spiked during the recession due to the credit crisis, worsening unemployment and plummeting property values.
Perkins said authorities can sometimes help homeowners get back "some" of their money, but lost homes are seldom recovered due to legal complexities.
To avoid the skyrocketing number of scams, the FBI has amped up its website with public service announcements and wants the public to know about it.
For more information and to watch the PSA's, head to the FBI's website.