By Susie Jones, NewsRadio 830 WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed lawsuits against two out-of-state companies that charged Minnesota homeowners up to $3,500 in unlawful fees to help them renegotiate their home mortgages.

Swanson said in both cases,the companies used the threat of mortgage modification assistance scams to convince homeowners to pay money to their companies.

The first lawsuit was filed against Balanced Legal Group of California which charged homeowners up to $3,500 for supposed mortgage help. The second suit was filed against Home Protection Coalition of Wyoming, which charged homeowners up to $2,300.

Swanson said under Minnesota law, companies may not charge homeowners up front fees before they deliver the promised help.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports

“And at the first sign of trouble, find a company that does it for free. You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars. You are just throwing money out the window, if you do,” Swanson said.

She said her office has seen an uptick of complaints involving companies and offered some tips to consumers.

— Do not pay advance fees for mortgage help to out-of-state attorneys who are not licensed to do business in Minnesota.

— Do not pay advance fees for mortgage help to any other organization, including one posing as a nonprofit corporation.

— At first sign of mortgage trouble, find a reputable nonprofit credit counseling organization that serves you as part of its charitable mission.