If you've fallen behind in your mortgage payments or have filed for foreclosure on your home, there are companies out there waiting to "help."

The problem is that the help is actually a scam which could lead to even greater financial difficulties for you and your family.

One of the scams is perpetrated by a company that may have found you by looking at the foreclosure notices. They contact you with a message that "guarantees" they'll stop your foreclosure. These scams work in various ways, but it all boils down to this: pay an upfront fee, and they'll get you off the hook. Instead, they swindle you out of the money.

In another rescue scam, the company leads you to believe you're getting a new mortgage loan, but you're actually signing over the title of your home to the company.

The approach varies, but if you agree to their terms, you will eventually lose your home.

To avoid being victimized, refuse to work with a company that offers a guarantee, that tells you to stop paying your lender, that collects a fee for service not yet performed or accepts payment only by wire transfer or a cashier's check.

If a firm tries to convince you to lease your home and buy it back later, run as fast as you can.

If you're having mortgage trouble, the key is to talk to your lender and try to renegotiate your payments. Also consider contacting a credit counselor through the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit agency that offers personal assistance to help home owners avoid foreclosure.

The Illinois Attorney General's office has a help line at 866-544-7151.

Or, consult with a private attorney.

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