By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –As we head into 2012, are you having a more and more difficult time paying your mortgage? While the economy is slowly improving, it’s not happening fast enough for those at risk of losing their homes. And there are people and companies that will try to profit off of that.

When the bad economy cut into bus driver Stewart Ransom’s overtime, he lost 30% of his income and worried he might lose the family home. Like another 1.5 million Americans, he found himself in foreclosure and called his bank to seek a loan modification.

“The bank was being very obstinate. They were dragging their feet. They kept passing it off to another person,” Ransom says.

Stewart paid a lawyer $3,000 up front for help in obtaining a mortgage modification through his bank. He says, “The bank wasn’t helping me, and instead of going to someone who could help me, I walked into the lion’s den with open arms.” He says in the end, his lawyer didn’t do a thing.

The Hope Hotline, a national not-for-profit service that assists distressed homeowners free of charge, hears stories like this all the time. So what should homeowners look out for?

Colleen Hernandez says, “A red flag, avoid guarantees. As much as you would like to have a guarantee, no legitimate person is going to make a guarantee. The second is, do they want money for this? Because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofits all over the country that can that do offer this service for free.”

In our area, one of the non-profit groups that assists homeowners in dealing with their banks to get a mortgage modification is the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley. You can contact them through the link below.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service:

Federal Trade Commission:

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