If it sounds to good to be true...

There are a lot of homeowners right now who are having trouble hanging on to their house. As a result, there are also a lot of unscrupulous organizations trying to make a quick buck out of another person's desperation.

Con artists take all shapes and sizes; and they seem to adapt quickly to the economic times. With the downturn of the housing market and numbers of homeowners facing foreclosure, financial vultures are circling the market posing as mortgage rescue firms who offer hope in a hopeless situation.

If you find yourself needing help with your mortgage, there are at least five tips to keep in mind to avoid being scammed.

1) Use only non-profit, HUD-approved counselors to sort out your options in avoiding a foreclosure. You can find a counselor by visiting www.hud.gov, or calling them direct at (877) 483-1515.

2) Most HUD-approved counselors provide their services at no cost - and they never ask for an up-front fee totalling hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

3) There are no guarantees. A counselor cannot guarantee to save your house from foreclosure. Be wary of anyone who makes such a promise.

4) Read everything - carefully. Know what you are signing and why you are signing it. Don't sign blank pages or pages with large open spaces. And make sure it's your signature. Don't let a counselor fill out forms for you.

5) Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion from someone you trust. If you feel that you are the victim of fraud, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.