When James Quinn first missed a mortgage payment last year, the bills piled up pretty quickly.
"In January, we actually became three months behind," he said, "and then March 1st, we were four months behind."
He knew he needed help. The bank wasn't willing to work with him, he said, so he found a solution online. Or so he thought.
It was called MyHomeSupport.org.
They said they would work with his bank to get a loan modification and help him get his negative equity excused.
"It sounded awesome, if it was real," Quinn said.
But he was skeptical. He checked with the Better Business Bureau's website and the federal government's housing authority. He couldn't find a problem, he said.
When he talked to a representative from the company on the phone, he was even more convinced.
They asked him to pay almost $2,000 for their services, but he negotiated the price further down. They also asked him to pay the entire amount up front, but Quinn would only agree to pay $750 up front and the rest later, when he saw progress.
"I felt pretty confident that maybe there was some light at the end of the tunnel," he said, "that we might get some help."
So he sent them a cashier's check.
They sent him an email the next day telling him that they'd received the check.
But a few days later, he hadn't heard from them again. So, Quinn started calling. He got a busy signal every time, he said.
"They just – yeah," he said, "they're gone."
Quinn knew he had been scammed. And he's not the only one.
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission got a court order to shut down the operations of MyHomeSupport.org, Householdrelief.org and Freefedloanmod.org, calling them all scams aimed at distressed homeowners.
As part of the FTC's crackdown on mortgage relief scams like this, the government filed a complaint against the company's owner, Sameer Lakhany, and five California-based companies he controlled.
The FTC found that these companies took more than $1 million from hundreds of homeowners nationwide. Now, the agency is aiming to get refunds for those consumers who were ripped off.
The agency has frozen all assets related to the company and appointed a permanent receiver to run it while they move forward with the case.
"They presented themselves very well," according to Felicia Thompson, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications with the Better Business Bureau of Central, Northern and Western Arizona . They targeted their clients well, she said, "knowing that these folks needed help."
Thompson said it was a sophisticated scam. "Usually, they don't go to the extremes that they went to," she said.
But the big red flag here, according to Thompson, was that they asked for money up front.
For Quinn, it could have been a lot worse. He's just relieved that he didn't give MyHomeSupport.org even more money.
"But that $750 is half of a mortgage payment," he said.