We all know that the AGO is awesome, but we must also credit our superb Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). Just the past year, our DFI has made a couple charges against mortgage companies for false advertising.
In December 2007, Linden Home Loans of Kirkland and its owners, Christopher Opdyke and Mark Sullivan, were accused of 'bait and switch' advertising. The term 'bait and switch' is a form of fraud in which a company or person(s) advertise a product or service at an unprofitably low price, and then reveals to potential costumers that the advertised product or service is no longer available but that a substitute is. Essentially, it's a way to convince buyers to purchase the substitute to avoid disappointment from not getting the 'bait' or a way to recover lost money expended while trying to obtain the 'bait'. If you ever come across a case like this in your pursuit of a product or service, a red flag should immediately flare up. Don't be afraid to reject any good that you did not specifically pursue, even if it's a substitute that is very close to the original. The respondents of the Linden Home Loans of Kirkland case agreed in a Consent Order to pay $79,000 in fines and costs instead of contesting the charges against them. However, they did not admit to any wrongdoing. Their licenses to conduct business in Washington were suspended for 30 days and Linden Home Loans voluntarily surrendered its mortgage broker license just this past July.
This past March, Assurity Financial Services of Englewood, CO (a licensed consumer loan company) and its owners Calvin and Troy Hamler were accused of engaging in a deceptive direct mail solicitation campaign. Deceptive direct mail can be something like a letter sent to your home from a loan company informing you of an adjust in lending policies, making the letter look like it came from the government, which can convince you to take out a loan with that company. Any kind of solicitation mail you receive should be clear stating who they are, what services they are offering, etc. If you get any mail that appears to be coming from the government, it may be deceptive and could be an attempt to trick you into buying the company’s product and/or service. The respondents of the Assurity Financial Services charge agreed to a Consent Order to pay $250, 000 in fines, and, although did not admit to any wrongdoing, agreed further that if they fail to comply with the injunctive provisions of the Consent Order, the balance of the fine would be imposed and the respondents would be prohibited from the consumer loan industry for five years.
As a consumer, especially when you are looking to take out loans, be very wary and cautious to advertisements as they may be misleading, deceptive, and/or false.
And a big thanks to our DFI!
-- Katharine Tengtio