Know Your Rights — Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, it is illegal for a company to require payment until they provide you a written offer of loan modification or other relief from the mortgage lender AND the homeowner accepts the offer. Companies must also disclose that they are not affiliated with the government in their telemarketing calls and advertisements.

The company also cannot advise you to stop contacting your lender. They must tell you that your mortgage lender may not agree to modify the loan and that failure to pay your mortgage could result in the loss of your home or damage your credit rating. The company must also remind homeowners of their right to reject the offer without any charge.

Attorneys are generally exempt from the MARS Rule if they meet three conditions: they are engaged in the practice of law, they are licensed in the state where the homeowner or the dwelling is located, and they are complying with state laws and regulations governing attorney conduct related to the rule. To be exempt from the advance fee ban, attorneys must also meet a fourth requirement — they must place any fees they collect in a client trust account and abide by state laws and regulations covering such accounts.