Mortgage Consulting - The New "Scam"

I recently wrote this guide on Avvo based on a article I read in Crain's New York. I thought I would highlight it here, and expand it a little bit for you guys.

Here it is in a nutshell for the short attention span people - there are a lot of crooks out there, and the "Good guys" are on their trail, but until they catch up with them, buyer beware. The services they offer you can actually get for free if you look hard enough, or you can actually do yourself with a little education.

With foreclosures in New York City alone up 50% over the past year, those brokers that sold those subprime loans that contributed to the financial crisis are now "Modification Consultants". Here's what you need to know to steer clear of these characters and where to go for REAL mortgage assistance.

Here's Their Pitch: These "consultants" scour public records, like ACRIS and, and look for people in danger of defaulting on their mortgage loans. Most of this information is public knowledge if you know where to look.

They then bombard you with a barrage of mailings and phone solicitations - you've probably heard them, saw them, or know someone who has. They advertise themselves as a solution to your debt problems where, for a "modest" upfront fee, they'll negotiate with your bank to bring down the rate / term of your loan.

In many cases, they'll also advise you to STOP paying your mortgage. Some even claim to be "licensed" to do this kind of work. According to Crain's New York, mortgage modification is one of the fastest growing job fields in the country today.

Here's The Truth About Them: While some turn out to be legitimate, many of these "consultants" do little, if any, good.. and can potentially do a lot of harm while taking your money.

Let's dispell the myths: First, "consultants" can't charge an upfront fee for these services - it's illegal in New York (and in 11 other states) to do so unless you are an attorney or a non-profit.

Second, anyone advising you to stop making your regular payments is irresponsible, and following their bad advice can put you, more often than not, closer to the edge of foreclosure. Failing to pay your payment will not only put you in a hole financially, but harm your credit rating, and harm your chances of getting other loans and financing. The main rules about credit that I tell everyone are (1) try to pay your bills as regularly as possible and (2) NEVER close a credit line - the older the credit history, the better for your score.

Third, once they get your money, many "consultants" do little work (if they do any at all), and are unresponsive, leaving you in an even bigger hole than you started.

Finally, know that there is NO license for mortgage modification in the State of New York, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

Here's How To Avoid The Scam: Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to tell a legitimate mortgage modification company from a shady one - the wheels of justice are turning slowly and will figure that out for us. In fact, the New York Attorney General's office is investigating these firms. Until the authorities have time to catch up with this scam, there are plenty of legitimate resources to turn to for your mortgage concerns.

If you need assistance with your mortgage, there are qualified attorneys out there, and many of them donate their services to non-profit organizations specifically dealing with the mortgage crisis. You can find these organizations through your city and state government. One that I would suggest is Comptroller Thompson's Foreclosure Hotline.

As an alternative, you have the right to contact your lender and negotiate new terms for yourself! You don't need anybody to contact your bank - who knows more about your situation than you?

The one rule that applies to every bank is this - they want money, and they'll make the deal that they perceive will maximize their bottom line the most. Keep this in mind when coming up with your negotiation strategy. So if the current mortgage arrangement won't pay the bank the most, then maybe the alternative is better for them and for you. Many lenders will work with borrowers who find themselves in a hardship situation.

These free and low-cost options are the best way to tackle your mortgage concerns. Take advantage of all that's out there. In these tough financial times, knowledge is power. Feel free to ask any questions, and I'll answer them on here.

My Own Year In Review

2008 is a year that many of us will want to forget, but in the spirit of "those things that don't kill us make us stronger", I'm gonna take stock in what I've been through this year, and take a look back at the year that was for me personally and professionally.

FEBRUARY: The future of my neighborhood is very important to me, so I was pleased when the Borough President's office invited the SB/PB Civic Association to meet with other community members at the request of the owner of the Golden Gate Motor Inn to discuss what the community would like to see built on the site. This was the first time that a property owner ever made such a request - a pivotal moment in the development of Sheepshead Bay, at least in my mind.

February also saw Gotham Sports Media burst onto the internet radio scene with "Live From Mickey Mantle's" , the first weekly internet sports show to broadcast from a live venue. Since then, Gotham Sports Radio's programs have consistently topped the sports programming ranking on BlogTalkRadio, the internet's leading radio platform. "Mantle's" will always hold a special place for me, because I had the privilege of producing the show throughout the spring and summer.

In fact, throughout the spring, I pretty much did nothing BUT rub elbows with the top sports analysts and personalities! It was a whole lot of fun.

JUNE: Before I hit the "Big 3-0", I guess Fate had one more rite of passage for me to go through - the "perp" walk! So, on June 6th, my last day as a twenty-something, I was "detained" by the NYPD. By now, most people know the story, and if you don't, look it up online - I'm not going to re-tell the story or respond to those people who either don't believe my account, or don't want to believe it for whatever reason. What I will say is that I think I am a better person for doing what I did and going through what I went through, and I hope the community is better for it as well.

JULY: So if my episode with the NYPD and some people in Manhattan Beach wasn't enough fun for the summer, I then found myself in a war of words with attorneys for Stephen Jemal, a developer in the area. Apparently, a blog entry on the SB/PB Civic's site ruffled his feathers a little bit. Add in a little problem with an unidentified "Hacker" and you have the making of even more drama! In the end, the Civic decided to modify what was written in exchange for Mr. Jemal's attendance at one of our meetings to answer some questions - a condition that he still hasn't met.

In this case, I believe Jemal's actions speak louder than any words the Civic ever wrote.

AUGUST: The highlight of my year was the communuty's work on the Brigham Street Park Project. We started down a great road in designing a park that is totally community driven, and environmentally friendly. The Project has since expanded into a whole plan for Plumb Beach - so stay tuned!

So many people are committed to turning design into reality, and we will.

SEPTEMBER: The most fun I had all year was at a Plumb Beach Clean-Up with my friend and Brigham Park designer Jon Fouskaris. Who knew that digging up a boat hull and floating it a mile or so down a beach could be such a blast!

The SS Fouskaris will live on forever!

OCTOBER: I made a personal career choice to pursue my legal career in earnest and joined a small Manhattan litigation practice. In 2 1/2 months, I've learned more about the law than I have in 2 1/2 years! Without a doubt, this was the best decision I've made all year. I am looking forward to all that this practice brings in 2009 and beyond!

DECEMBER: The final accomplishment of the year for the Civic was the recovery of the Lundy's Memorial Plaque. This transfer of ownership was months in the making thanks to Marty Golden's office and the Pappas family.

Also, Gotham Sports Media acquired the online right to "Baseball Digest", the oldest baseball publication in the United States. How amazing is THAT?!? To me, that's like owning a small piece of Americana, and my partners and I recognize that we have a special responsibility to uphold the tradition and legacy of it. Look for us to debut in March of 2009.

So those are some of my highlights, but there were some low moments as well, I've lost friends and family that I miss deeply, and gone through much strife within my family and my work life. But just as I think everyone does around this time of year, I have an eye on where I've been and I am looking forward happily at where I'm going.

Hope springs eternal. Bring on 2009!

Gotham Sports Media Launches !!!

Here is some awesome news from Gotham Sports Media, of which I am part-owner and General Counsel. This is an exciting project that has been a year in the making, and I'm so proud to share it with all of you!

Congratulations to my partners Mark Healey and Paul Greco (who are right now living the high life in Vegas covering MLB's Winter Meetings while I'm freezing my butt off in NYC!), Joe Janish and our consulting team on a job very well done.

Baseball Digest To Launch Website, Names Mark Healey Online Editor
Legendary Baseball Publication Will Unveil New Site In Time For 2009 Season

New York, NY (PRWEB) December 8, 2008 -- Baseball Digest, standing alone as the oldest, continuously published baseball magazine in the United States, announced today that it will launch in time for the the 2009 baseball season. Norman Jacobs, the Publisher of Baseball Digest since 1969, has chosen Mark Healey as Baseball Digest's online editor, and his company, Gotham Sports Media, to develop the website,

"Bringing Baseball Digest to the Internet is an exciting new chapter in the history of this great magazine," Jacobs said. "I am equally thrilled to have Mark Healey directing this effort for us, I share his enthusiasm for this project and am confident in his ability to introduce Baseball Digest to a whole new audience."

Healey, who founded Gotham Sports Media, LLC in April of 2005, has been Executive Editor of Gotham Baseball Magazine since its inception. Prior to creating his company, Healey worked at Associated Press, specifically AP Sports, from 1998-2006.

"I grew up reading Baseball Digest, and joining its ranks is a lifelong dream realized," Healey said. "Our development team, headed by Associate Editors Paul Greco and Joe Janish, will ensure that baseball fans of all ages will make their number one source for baseball news."

The new site, scheduled to launch on March 1, 2009, will not only be the legendary magazine's online showpiece, but will also offer real-time statistics, Fantasy Baseball advice, and historical perspective from some of the best baseball writers in the business. With interactive forums and pages for every team in baseball, will be a one-stop baseball source for news, trade rumors and features about the Grand Old Game.

About Baseball Digest:
Baseball Digest Magazine was established in 1942, making it the longest-running active baseball magazine. It provides captivating insights on major league baseball history and on current stars -- from one-on-one interviews and special features to exclusive statistics as well as complete rosters and schedules throughout the season. Published eight times a year -- with National and American League schedules, directories and pre-season rosters -- it is dedicated solely to America's Pastime.

About Gotham Sports Media:
Gotham Sports Media, founded in 2005, owns and operates the Gotham Sports Media Network, a collection of award-winning web sites that boast one of the largest audiences of any independent New York sports media outlet. For more information, visit Gotham Sports Media online at