You’ve probably seen the ads all over the internet, including on Facebook: “Obama gives homeowners a bailout. Eliminate up to 15 years of mortgage payments!” Admittedly, if you own a home with a common 30-year mortgage, slashing it in half of it certainly sounds appealing.
But who’s behind these ads, and why are they pushing “Obama’s Mortgage Bailout” program? (Spoiler alert: It’s LowerMyBills.com.) And when it comes down to it, does this president’s refinancing program even exist in the first place?
To answer these questions and many others, we performed some in-depth research. Here’s what we learned, and what you need to know before clicking on one of these advertisements.
Is Obama Really Helping to “Bail Out” Homeowners?
First things first. Before going into too much detail about the company behind these advertisements, let’s answer the most pressing question on your mind: Is President Obama really offering some kind of refinance program that can “eliminate up to 15 years of mortgage payments?” The short answer is no, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in the next section.
However, for now, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that the Obama administration hasn’t implemented some programs to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. The most well known example of this is the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). This government program is intended to help individuals whose mortgages are equal to, or greater than, the value of their homes refinance their loans in order to decrease their interest rates, reduce their monthly payments, and more.
The Obama administration is also looking to expand the HARP program through pending legislation that would make it available to nearly three times as many homeowners.
So, if Obama isn’t really helping to “bail out” homeowners or to slash your 30-year mortgage in half, what exactly are these ads promoting, and who’s behind them? Let’s take a look.
Why Does LowerMyBills.com Sponsor These “Obama” Ads & What Do They Offer?
As we can see from the above information, the government has zero programs in place that can “bail you out” of your mortgage in any way, shape, or form. Instead, as you’ve likely learned if you clicked on one of these ads, these are intended as teasers for a company called LowerMyBills.com, which promises to help you save money on a wide variety of common expenditures, such as insurance, phone and internet, debt consolidation, online education, and more.
The government has zero programs in place that can “bail you out” of your mortgage in any way.
Once you land on the LowerMyBills.com website after clicking on one of the “Obama Bailout” advertisement, you’ll be asked several questions related to the type of house you own, your credit score, the type of loan you’re looking for, as well as your zip code.
You’ll also be required to indicate when you purchased your home, its estimated value, your mortgage interest rate, and several other key pieces of information. But what’s the purpose of gathering this information in the first place?
Based on the wording in the ad, as well as the wording on the Lower My Bills website, you probably think that you’ll receive an immediate refinance quote after entering all of this information. However, the truth is that Lower My Bills sells your information to its partners (or essentially anyone who can pay money for it), who will then contact you in an attempt to sell you their services.
In short, Lower My Bills acts as a lead generator for other companies. They lure you in through their outrageous (and often times funny) online advertisements, gather your information, and then sell this information to other businesses.
For example, after we entered our information and completed the process related to home refinancing, the only option we were given was Quicken Loans, which is apparently a “preferred partner” of Lower My Bills.
However, after this first attempt we went through the process again, except this time we entered completely different information, including state, credit score, home value, and so forth. This time, while Quicken Loans was still an option, Lower My Bills also provided three other mortgage brokers, although only one of these included any details about the mortgage company, while the others simply listed “your local mortgage broker.”
Important Information About LowerMyBills.com
Although lead generation isn’t one of the first things you would associate them with, LowerMyBills.com is actually owned by Experian, one of the “big three” credit bureaus, and they appear to have been using the “Obama Refinance” hook since at least 2010. Because of this, you might imagine that they’re upfront with their practices and are focused on providing high levels of satisfaction to their customers, although this may not necessarily be the case. But why?
Most importantly, after entering all of your information, just below the final button you’ll see the following text:
In other words, this means that you’re essentially waving your rights and agreeing to be contacted by as many different vendors that can purchase your information from Lower My Bills. Because of this, we found hundreds of customer complaints citing that:
- You can expect almost immediate calls after entering your information, and that this likely won’t stop for quite some time (remember, you will have waived any rights provided under the Do Not Call registry).
- On top of this, some customers have stated they received up to 20 calls per hour.
- Many other consumers claimed that their credit scores dropped anywhere from 15-100 points as a result of numerous hard inquiries from vendors.
Unfortunately, once you’ve handed your information over to Lower My Bills and they’ve sold it to third parties, there doesn’t appear to be much that you can do to avoid receiving calls. There isn’t a phone number provided on the company’s website (only an email address), and the Unsubscribe link of their website only removes your email address from their email updates, not from the third parties they’ve handed your information over to.
Because of this, as you can imagine, the vast majority of customers who’ve handed over their personal information to Lower My Bills have regretted their decision. But does this necessarily mean that you should stay away from all lead generation websites as a whole? Let’s take a look.
As a General Rule, Should You Use Lead Generation Websites? Why or Why Not?
As with many other types of industries, from nutritional supplements to multi-level marketing, it’s often the case that a few bad apples ruin the reputation for many of the more reputable companies, and it’s no different with lead generation. But how? Take the following as an example:
The Good About Lead Generation Websites
Imagine that you’re looking for less expensive car insurance. Traditionally, you would need to call one of the big insurance companies directly, wait on hold, and then spend 10-15 minutes on the phone with a customer service representative. Even once the process is complete however, you’re still only provided with a quote from that specific carrier.
On the other hand, you could contact an insurance agency in your area that may have relationships with numerous auto insurance companies. As such, you can provide them with your information just once, and they can turn around and find you the cheapest rates. However, even large insurance agencies may only deal with a handful of insurance companies, so your overall options could still be limited.
Enter lead generation websites. Since it’s often the case that auto insurance lead generators (Compare.com and Get My Insurance as two examples) deal with agents that represent dozens of insurance companies, this may give you the best shot at finding the highest level of coverage at the lowest possible price.
The Bad About Lead Generation Websites
Because you’re expressing consent, any protection you have under a state or federal Do Not Call List quickly fades away, thereby leaving you vulnerable to dozens of potential calls on a daily basis, which will likely continue long after you’ve found new car insurance (continuing with the example from the previous section.
On top of this, as we saw with many of the complaints related to LowerMyBills.com, if you decide to hand over your social security number, you may end up having dozens of unwanted “hard” hits on your credit, which can lower your score by quite a bit. Proving this detailed information can also leave you open to identity theft.
Find Out Everything You Can About the Company
With all of this in mind, if you’re thinking about using a lead generation website, the first thing you should do is search for online reviews about the company, including here at HighYa. Customers often speak loudly about their poor experiences, and if a company is “less-than-stellar,” this will quickly be revealed through online reviews.
Never Give Out Your SS Number
Next, never—ever—enter your social security number on a lead generation website. This is because whether you’re applying for a home refinance loan or for car insurance, these third-party vendors have zero need for this information until 1) you’ve decided that you’re comfortable with the company, and 2) that you’d like to proceed with the process. Otherwise, many of these third-party companies may run hard inquiries on your credit, which can greatly lower your score, and in a worst-case scenario can even leave you open to fraud.
How Did You Learn About the Company?
Finally, consider how you found out about the lead generation company. Was it through a reputable online article, or did you click on an advertisement hosted on your favorite website? Once you landed on the company’s website, did they lead you to believe something (e.g. that Obama was offering to slash your mortgage in half, or that you’d be able to compare rates after entering your information), while providing something very different after everything was said and done?
This is important because the honesty a company displays in their advertisements and/or on their website goes a long way in showing the level of honesty they’ll use with you.
More on the Topic:
- How to Check Facts & Never Fall for False Information Again
- Tired of Spam & Telemarketing Calls? Here’s How To Stop the Madness
- Stop Believing Everything That You Read Online