Consumer Action lends expertise to national housing initiative

Consumer Action attends a foreclosure prevention fair in Southern California to train event participants to spot scams and avoid fraud.
Published: Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The foreclosure prevention fair held Dec. 5 at South El Monte High School in El Monte, CA was one of a series of events offered by the Alliance for Stabilizing our Communities—a collaborative effort of the National Urban League (NUL), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD). Bank of America is the collaborative’s primary supporter.

Luz María Gomez, foreclosure and loan counselor with the Montebello Housing Development Center, invited Consumer Action to take part so that fairgoers could learn to avoid the many types of scams targeting consumers in financial trouble. She told Consumer Action’s Nelson Santiago that clients she sees are vulnerable to housing related fraud and fraud in general. Gomez asked Consumer Action to help by providing fraud prevention workshops while consumers waited to discuss their loans with loan experts.

California Senator Ron Calderon (Senate District 30) was among those welcoming attendees to the housing fair. Earlier in the week the Senator noted that foreclosures continued to be a major concern in his district and that the housing fairs would help ease the worry for many families during the holiday season.

In the high school gym converted to a resource and assembly area, Santiago led a workshop on consumer fraud. Santiago’s presentation was based on Consumer Action’s MoneyWi$e educational materials developed in partnership with Capital One. “I cover the scams that homeowners in crisis need to be especially wary of,” Santiago said, adding that homeowners under financial pressure can be easily tempted by work-at-home and get-rich-quick schemes. Santiago noted that although attendees were eager to talk to loan specialists that Saturday morning, they were very engaged in his session and asked lots of questions.

Santiago noted that he kept the session informal and interactive, inviting participants to share their experiences so that others could learn from them. One family in particular, among others in the session, went home with a better understanding of the how, under federal consumer protection rules, credit cards offer more protection than debit cards in the event of unauthorized use. Santiago also staffed a resource table where he answered consumer questions and distributed publications including “Save your home from foreclosure,” “Keeping your home” and the colorful foreclosure prevention novela “True Life Stories.”

Another unique aspect of the housing event was that it was the first of its kind in the area to provide language access to homeowners in the Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Filipino, and Thai communities in the San Gabriel Valley. Consumer Action’s community-based partners who provided assistance at the fair included Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), Thai Community Development Center, Chinatown Service Center and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

 Santiago’s presentation was made possible by Consumer Action’s Housing Information Project.




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