Marketing ploy disguised as government offer

March 6, 2009 6:55:22 PM PST
A warning from 7 On Your Side about a misleading mailer. It is a marketing ploy disguised as an offer from the government to help you through these hard times.

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It is an old scheme -- send out a letter that appears to be from the government offering a loan, or in this case, a reverse mortgage. But now there is a new urgency. With the government getting more involved in the economy, you have to keep your guard up like never before.

Martha Beams contacted 7 On Your Side after receiving a letter in the mail with a government logo at the top and in bold letters the words, "government sponsored program." Then it says, "This special senior program is administrated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development."

"HUD, you know, Housing and Urban Development... oh, that sounds good. I know the government is trying to help people, so that's what this must be," said Beams.

But at the very bottom of the page, in print so small the vast majority of seniors could never read it without magnification, it reads, "This offer is a private service and is not being made by an agency of the government."

"It is the tiniest font ever. So who would read that?" said California Real Estate Commissioner Jeff Davi.

Davi says he will investigate this letter, and told 7 On Your Side homeowners are being flooded with offers like this.

"Postcards, letters, some even get phone calls. So the biggest problem is we've been telling them don't respond to this. It's hard not to, but just stop," said Davi.

We also showed the letter to California Attorney General Jerry Brown. He made a copy for himself and says he will look into it, too.

"They call it a government sponsored loan program. I don't know what that means," said Brown. "But yeah, they can... I mean, this looks pretty shoddy to begin with. It's cheap computer work. You have to be careful."

So if it isn't the government offering the loan, who is it?

"It doesn't say who it's from," said Beams.

It doesn't. Beams figured that out on her own and right away and that's why she notified 7 On Your Side.

So there is no name, but there is an address.

Finney: "Good morning, I'm Michael Finney from Channel 7."

Man: "Hey, how are you?"

Finney: "Good. I want to talk to someone about this notice that was sent out."

Man: "Ah, you can talk to... I don't know."

Finney: "You don't know? Are you the guy to talk to?"

Man: "No, definitely not."

Finney: "That guy has an office, he looks like.. oh, hey don't do that." (man shuts door)

The man we spoke to says he sells loans.

Finney: "Do people think they are talking to the government when they call you?"

Man: "No, not at all... Actually it says that it is a private company."

Finney: "Are you talking about down here in this little tiny print?"

Man: "Yeah, that's correct."

Finney: "Ah, come on."

While we were talking another guy came in.

Finney: "Do you own the place?"

Person: "I do."

Finney: "You do? Oh, very good. Can we talk about this?"

Person: "No."

Finney: "We are getting complaints."

We never get the guy's name, but are later told the company is Twin Capital Mortgage.

An article from the San Francisco Business Times features Twin Capital Mortgage and a photograph of the owners, Mikey and Darius Mirshahzadeh. The publication quotes Darius as saying, "We're positioning ourselves as equity ninjas."

Finney: "We have people saying they think you are trying to fool them. Down there, the little tiny print."

Man: "Yeah, we've corrected that."

Finney: "You have corrected that? Do you have a new version of this?"

Man: "It's the same, but it has all the information down there."

Finney: "Except it's bigger than this?"

Man: "Yes. It has actually our name and everything in there.

Finney: "It has your name? Because this doesn't have your name or anything."

Man: "Yeah, it was a mistake."

Finney: "That was a mistake?"

Man: "It was a mistake. We have a corrected version."

Finney: "Can I see the corrected version?"

Man: "If you turn your camera off please and get out of here... I need you to leave my office please."

Finney: "I would like to see the new version."

The postal service is investigating now as well, and we will let you know if anything comes of that. The company has an "A-" grade with the Better Business Bureau and it is licensed and in good standing with the State of California.

If you have received a government looking letter and 7 On Your Side to check it out, contact us here.

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