Some mortgage lenders are using a deceptive direct mail campaign that encourages homeowners to apply for a loan by claiming they are entitled to cash grants or equity distributions under the Community Reinvestment Act.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued a warning Monday saying that the CRA is a real law, but that the offer is not.

Consumers have contacted the FDIC with questions and complaints after receiving solicitations suggesting there is a “Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Program” that entitles certain homeowners to payments.

“These solicitations appear to be a deceptive effort to encourage consumers to apply for a mortgage loan secured by the consumer’s home,” the FDIC warned.

Enacted in 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act encourages banks and savings and loans to make credit available in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, but does not entitle individuals to any grants or loans.

The FDIC did not identify the lenders using the ploy by name.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in July 2006 that the California attorney general’s office was investigating complaints from consumers about a similar direct marketing campaign.

Homeowners reported receiving official looking letters informing them that they were eligible for a cash subsidy under the Community Reinvestment Act. The letters were sent on behalf of Enterprise Mortgage Group and Synergy Capital Mortgage, which hired the direct marketing firm iVault to conduct the campaign, the Chronicle reported.

In January 2006, the state of Oregon issued a cease-and-desist order against Synergy Capital Mortgage and fined the company $5,000 for a direct mail marketing campaign that claimed owners of “high appreciating properties” located in a certain ZIP code were eligible for a “reimbursement program.” Half of the fine was suspended for three years.

The company ran afoul of regulators when it sent the mailer to a financial examiner for the state Division of Finance and Corporate Securities.

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