The Checkout

What's the name of that agency again?

Ever heard of the Department of Maryland Notifications?

Neither have we! But that is the name that appeared on the envelope of a mortgage refinance solicitation received by my poor colleague Dan Beyers, whose mailbox has lately been filled with refi-related junk mail.

Making these solicitations look officials is an old trick. This one is just a little extra creative.

Once you open the envelope you discover that it is not from the government. Instead it's a "Notice of Instant Fixed Rate Approval" signed "sincerely" by one Richard Foley of the Potomac Funding Group. His pitch reads: "You have been selected to apply for a PRIME FIXED RATE mortgage approved by a Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE). This will save you money." [All original emphasis.]

For those who may not know, I briefly covered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and I have to say this is the first time I've seen anyone dangle the letters G-S-E before an Average Joe as an enticement. (I know this only confirms your worst fears, Bert Ely.)

Anyway, the letter goes on to say that Dan may be eligible to receive up to $100,000 in cash and that this "exceptional Maryland Program has many benefits" -- again suggesting it has Gov. Martin O'Malley's endorsement. (Believe, hon!)

To lend itself further credibility, the letter bears the logo of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. and says it is a member.

We asked Edward Johnson, who heads up the DC area BBB what he thinks of this and here's what he said:

"This company is not authorized to use the BBB member identifier logo as they have not agreed to abide by the terms and conditions of its restricted use. While authorization for use of the logo can be granted by completing the required forms, the larger issue is the use of the term "Dept. of Maryland Notifications" on the envelope. Assuming that there is no formal arrangement with the State of Maryland, this term would violate the spirit and basic principles of the BBB Code of Advertising. In addition, the use of the term "Government Sponsored Enterprise", in the body of the letter, is problematic. The company will need to substantiate or immediately cease use of such terms if it wishes to maintain any affiliation with the BBB.

Ouch.

We've been calling Potomac Funding Group since Friday and leaving messages with a sales agent. So far, no response.

Potomac Funding Group is a trade name registered to Broker Management Inc., which is incorporated in Maryland at a Potomac address. Will let you know if we hear more from them.

In the mean time, what's in your mailbox? Are you getting hit with refi solicitations? And have any tempted you?

By Annys Shin |  March 17, 2008; 12:12 PM ET Consumer News
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Comments

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Many many re-fi notices and the like. They've been keeping my shreader busy and no, I'm not tempted - not at all.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 18, 2008 7:51 AM

There seems to be no limit to the "official" agencies that spring up like weeds. In a place where even the real ones serve no useful purpose, what else would you expect? If those scamsters ever sent you a check, it would probably by "payable" by the East Bank of the Mississippi. Sorry, I have to go, my shredder has jammed again...

Posted by: Bill | March 24, 2008 11:49 PM

If you want to know more email me at herbgura@lake.org

Posted by: Herb Gura | April 5, 2008 10:23 PM

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