SAN FRANCISCO — US officials have shut down scores of suspect scams that suckered homeowners with Google ads promising to help relieve them of burdensome mortgage debt.
Investigators were following leads Thursday in the wake of 85 alleged “online mortgage modification scams” being derailed by the office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Google was given a list of accused scammers and no longer accepts their online advertising in a move that SIGTARP said would dramatically stem the flow of potential victims.
“Web ads that offer a false sense of hope may not be legitimate and can end up costing homeowners their home,” said Christy Romero, deputy special inspector general for TARP.
“The first place many homeowners turn for help in lowering their mortgage is the Internet through online search engines, and that’s precisely where they are being taken advantage of and targeted.”
Schemes included getting homeowners to pay up-front fees then failing to arrange loan modifications and even taking property deeds or mortgage payments, according to SIGTARP.
The TARP move comes less than three months after Google agreed to pay $500 million to settle charges that it sold advertisements to Canada-based online pharmacies that marketed drugs to Americans in violation of US law.
The pharmacies broke the law by selling prescription drugs to Americans without complying with US safety standards, according to the US Department of Justice.
After the settlement was announced, Google told AFP that it was “obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.”
Under the settlement, Google accepted responsibility for improperly helping the Canadian pharmacies and promised to step up its compliance measures in the future, as well as disgorging $500 million in profits.