She was just three months behind on her mortgage.
Now 69-year-old Mary Rogers of Frayser is more than $12,000 in the hole -- because she fell for a mortgage rescue scam.
"They get your deed, and they do a lease contract with you, and they say, well, look, we're going to pay the lender," says Corky Neale, research and innovative specialist for the RISE Foundation (www.risememphis.org), "and well, the fact of the matter is, they never do."
Rogers says she paid National Foreclosure Management, Inc., 6061 Apple Tree Drive in Hickory Hill, to 'rescue' her mortgage since she was falling behind in her payments. Rogers signed a lease contract with the company.
In this case, the company actually did pay off Rogers' mortgage, then arranged to have Rogers pay it a monthly lease - $200 more a month than her original mortgage - to stay in her house.
"I understood that after a year, after paying them an 'x' amount of money per month, that my home would be quick-deeded back over to me," says Rogers.
Except National Foreclosure Management, Inc. disappeared.
Its principal, Melvin Clark, abandoned the Hickory Hill offices. The door: padlocked. The Tennessee Secretary of State's corporate records now list the company as "inactive."
It's out of business.
Rogers and her housing counselor say Clark and his company turned the deed of her house over to an unnamed business partner. Now that business partner owns the deed to Rogers' house. By June, Rogers says she will have paid National Foreclosure Management, Inc., $12,918 over 18 months, and she still does not have the deed to her home.
"I can't afford another home," she says.
Here are the calling cards of a mortgage rescue scam:
* HEAVY SOLICITATION. Housing counselor Charia Jackson of the Frayser Community Development Corporation, 3684 N. Watkins (354-7178), says these scams scour public records to find borrowers who are in danger of losing their mortgages. Then they cold-call those borrowers, begging them by any means to do business with them.
"Send 'em letters, postcards, hang stuff on their doors and windshields," says Jackson.
* UPFRONT FEES. Jackson says the companies typically demand money up front before rendering their services.
* HIGHER MONTHLY PAYMENTS. Jackson says the monthly lease payment is substantially more than the victim's original mortgage payment.
Borrowers at risk of foreclosure need to make just one call: the Memphis Housing Counseling Network (http://memphis.earnbenefits.org/page.php?pageID=607) at 901-725-8361. The network offers FREE housing assistance and numerous options to help keep at-risk borrowers from losing their homes.
"A nice agreement could have been put in place where (Rogers) could have brought her mortgage current before she entered into this situation," says Jackson.