Only days after the Federal Reserve issued a proposed rule to reign in deceptive reverse mortgage advertising, Oregon Live is reporting that San Diego, CA, based EquiPoint Financial Network is mailing out fake checks to seniors that read “U.S. Economic Stimulus Package Approves New Payouts for Seniors”.
The marketing materials published on the website fail to list the name of the company or any other details about who is providing the information. The only unique identifier is the EquiPoint’s Oregon mortgage license number.
According to the article, the Oregon Division of Finances and Corporate Securities says it has sent two different letters asking EquiPoint to add its company name to its mailings and remove any implied affiliation with a government agency. Lisa Morawski, a division spokeswoman, told Only Money that the company has not responded. “We are sending another request with an expedited timeline,” she said.
The advertisement also includes a picture of CNBC financial host and author Suze Orman saying, “look into reverse mortgages, they’re a good way to go”. A representative for Suze Orman Media said it’s considering taking legal action against the company because it never authorized the use of her photo. ”We will be forwarding to our legal council for action and of course, Ms. Orman has nothing to do with this company,” the representative said in an email.
RMD reached out to the company for comment regarding the allegations and Bruce Barnes, President of EquiPoint, said the advertisement published was sent out by a branch office without the consent and approval of the corporate office.
“Prior to receiving this notice we had already made the necessary corrections to the branches advertising material which included the removal of anything considered deceptive and anything referencing Suze Orman,” said Barnes in an email to RMD. He added that the company has only received one notice from the state and it responded accordingly.
According to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the company does the majority of its business in Oregon. EquiPoint in the third largest reverse mortgage lender in the state, endorsing 62 HECMs through June 2010.
EquiPoint is also a member of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, which requires members operate under a strict code of conduct. “A complaint on the ad has been filed with the Ethics committee and it’s in the process of investigating,” said Marty Bell, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications for NRMLA in an email to RMD.