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Protect your house

Among the terms that have popped up in our national lexicon lately is one that is all too familiar — subprime mortgage crisis.

It has left thousands of homeowners scrambling for ways to avoid foreclosure.

Crises like these can break up families and cause an unhealthy amount of stress in addition to the havoc they wreak on financial and credit standing.

Now a state agency warns people that companies are taking advantage of families’ desperation to keep their homes.

The Alabama Banking Department is warning people that some companies that offer to change the terms on mortgages are doing so illegally.

Companies offer lower payments or the reinstatement of loans through modification of the loans.

Some companies go as far as charging up-front fees and guaranteeing a 100 percent success rate.

Charging fees up front violates Alabama law, and the Alabama Banking Department advises that some loans cannot be modified.

There are ways people can protect themselves. First, they should verse themselves on the terms of their mortgage. They should also make sure the companies they are dealing with are licensed mortgage brokers. One place to start is the banking department’s Web site.

Jeopardizing something as precious as the roof over your family’s head is an inexcusable thing.