With more than $3 billion in estimated losses nationwide last year, mortgage relief scams are at an all-time high.

With promises of a loan modification or relief from foreclosure, deficiency balances and negative credit, con artists seek out vulnerable homeowners. For an advance fee, many scammers claim they have connections within most major mortgage companies and will save the homeowner from losing their home on the courthouse steps.

Fraudsters use a variety of tactics to locate homeowners in distress. Some sift through public foreclosure notices in newspapers and on the Internet while others review public files at the local courthouse.

Some scammers are bold enough to claim affiliation with governmental agencies or programs through late night television commercials and fancy websites. In most cases, they make promises, take a struggling homeowners money and then fail to deliver.