Frauds on the rise, says survey

Frauds aimed at people in financial trouble rose sharply last year, according to a consumer agency survey released last week.

“Mortgage fraud and foreclosure scams are among the fastest-growing and the worst complaints,” said Susan Grant, the director of consumer protection at the Consumer Federation of America, which issued the findings.

In mortgage fraud, a supposed financial adviser charges fees to refinance home debt at a rate that's said to be favorable but isn't. In a foreclosure scam, high fees and bad advice leave desperate homeowners worse off.

Also surging, according to Grant, are fake-check scams. In such a scam, the scammer demands cash back from an overpayment with what turns out to be a bad check. Or the scammer writes bad checks to someone who's paid a commission to cash them.

Grant's group, which is an alliance of public and private consumer-counseling agencies, joined two other consumer associations to analyze complaint trends in 25 states.

Among the 10 top complaints they found were some traditional ones: Internet sales fraud, scams involving car sales, incomplete or poorly done construction work and sleazy credit and debt-collection methods.