For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: December 13, 2007
Wasden Reaches Settlement with Highland Financial
(Boise) – Highland Financial, a Post Falls business that offers mortgage foreclosure rescue services, will change its business and advertising practices, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. Under the terms of a legal settlement, Highland Financial agrees to comply with the Idaho Consumer Protection Act in its future advertising and promotions.
According to RealtyTrac, an organization that compiles foreclosure statistics, Idaho has experienced a 158% increase in foreclosure filings since October 2006. Due to the mortgage foreclosure crisis, foreclosure rescue businesses, which are a relatively new phenomenon, have multiplied.
Highland Financial advertised that it could help financially distressed consumers end the “stress,” “worries,” and “hassles” of foreclosure, bad credit, and eviction. The Attorney General alleged the company failed to make certain disclosures and may have misrepresented to homeowners that they could help homeowners retain ownership of their homes and improve their credit when that was not the case.
Highland Financial is not a state-registered credit repair business. Therefore, its past offer of free credit repair services allegedly misrepresented the company’s legal authority to provide homeowners with such assistance. “Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Highland Financial may not advertise that it offers debt counseling or credit repair services unless it establishes its qualifications and legal authority to provide those services to consumers,” Attorney General Wasden said.
Highland Financial also must inform consumers in writing of certain important facts before the consumer agrees to transfer ownership of their homes to a third party. Under the settlement, the company must:
“It is important for consumers who are facing the possibility of losing their homes to work with their lenders to find an alternative to foreclosure,” Attorney General Wasden emphasized. “HUD-approved housing counselors will provide consumers with free information about government and private organizations that offer assistance to financially distressed homeowners.”
Consumers should avoid doing business with individuals or companies that:
Under the terms of the settlement, Highland Financial must pay $1,000 in civil penalties and reimburse the Attorney General’s Office $2,000 in attorney fees and costs. Highland Financial did not admit any liability or wrongdoing and cooperated with the Attorney General during his investigation.
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