Mortgage Refinancing Shysters I

Yaacov Apelbaum-The Shysters

So you’re Looking to Refinance?

It may be true that David Hannum was the first to observe that suckers arrived in the delivery room at the rate of one per minute (ironically, he himself turned out to be a colossal sucker), but it took the marketing genius of P.T. Barnum (the man behind such novelties as the bearded lady) to turn gullibility into fortune. The world has changed significantly since the days of Barnum’s traveling freak shows where access to a new audience required lengthy cross country trips. Today, the Internet provides a virtual big top circus ripe with new ways to reel in and deceive, complete with unlimited seating for millions of new victims.

Eberhart and Kennedy in their excellent treatise "Swarm Intelligence" suggest that deception is quite common in social populations and they point out that all of us regularly practice it to one degree or another.  In support of their argument, they discuss the well documented El Farol algorithm frequently used by individuals to effectively compete in social communities in order to gain material or social advantage.

I recently I had occasion to consider this maxim and even try it on for size.  A practical and logical individual, I am by no means naive, so I was surprised—even blindsighted!—to discover that a certain financial advisor that I know personally is in fact a grade A shyster.  This got me to thinking about the varying shades of dishonesty and gullibility and the gray area that exists between telling "the truth and nothing but the truth" and outright lying especially as it pertains to financial solicitations.

You may have noticed that over the last year as the economy has spiraled out of control, the number of mail offers for mortgage refinancing has increased significantly.  The banks—which in the past were the traditional providers of such services—are still hemorrhaging profusely from the blunt trauma inflicted on them by the collapse of subprime mortgages. (I certainly don’t get any more solicitations for HELOC.) In what is further proof of the principal of horror vacui, it seems that the legitimate banking mortgage industry has now given way to a new breed of entrepreneurial ventures.  These con-corporations have smelled the blood in the water and are aggressively following Mr. Bigweld’s motto: "See a need, fill a need".

Yaacov Apelbaum-ICG Envelope

Realizing that many of these solicitations were probably rip-offs, I decided to test the waters to see if I could find out who was behind one of them.  As it happens, I didn’t have to wait long before receiving another mortgage refinancing solicitation letter. This one was from the Intercontinental Capital Group (ICG) and instead of sending it directly to my circular bin, I opened and read.

On the surface, the language and content of the letters (see both versions below) was drastically different from the one I’m accustomed to receiving from my bank.  Whereas previous solicitations were factual and down to business, these were laced with crafty and deceptive language.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Intercontinental Capital Group Letter 1
Intercontinental Capital Group Solicitation Letter 1

Yaacov Apelbaum-Intercontinental Capital Group Letter 2  
Intercontinental Capital Group Solicitation Letter 2

After examining the details I found the following noteworthy features:

  1. Disingenuous Claims of Previous Communication—In order to lower suspicions and fake familiarity, the letter claims to be a follow up on an already established relationship and ongoing communication.
  2. Design to Deceive—The letter contains what on the surface appears to be a legitimate application number, a "second notice" tag, a recognizable equal housing lender logo and acronyms of well known public and federal organizations.  In fact none of these details has any significance and are there simply to create the semblance of legitimacy.
  3. Vague and Deliberately Confusing Language—The letter states that ICG is "unconditionally endorsed by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development".  When I called the toll free number I heard: "Thank you for calling the FHA application processing center". ICG is certainly not a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) application processing center as the FHA neither issues loans directly nor has an application processing center.
  4. Skin Deep Corporate Internet Presence—On the surface the company web site appeared to be fully functional, but when I tried to use some of its key functionality (login, change password, etc.) I quickly discovered that none of it worked.

Being deceitful in marketing is not news (see Mortgage Refinancing Shysters II for more details), so respecting that any marketing campaign will always necessarily be laced with a certain amount of dishonesty (Seth Godin thinks that All Marketers are Lairs), I was ready to let this one go. Just before doing so, it occurred to me to Google "ICG" and lo and behold…it turns out that this shadowy and mysterious organization not only stretched their marketing collateral, they actually had  some serious run-ins with at least one state banking regulatory agency (failure to submit financial statements and comply).

It appears that the vacuum created by the retreating lending banks is being filled in by old style confidence and run of the mill Internet scam companies. Be mindful of this and remember that "there’s no such thing as free lunch".  If the mortgage refinancing offer you received looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Caveat Emptor.

© Copyright 2009 Yaacov Apelbaum All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Sarah
    June 13, 2009 at 10:29 am | #1

    Hi I think this is a fantastic blog, keep up the good work…

  2. John Apple
    June 21, 2009 at 11:37 am | #2

    Hi,

    I agree with your assessment on ICG and know this for a fact…

  3. Mark Zack
    June 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm | #3

    I got a letter similar to yours, and was actually stupid enough to call them. Their address at the time was NJ. It is interesting that they have moved since to NY. What a scam.

  4. Irad
    July 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm | #4

    Great blog! It would be interesting to actually check out their physical address to see what’s there.

  5. discodaug
    September 23, 2009 at 12:17 am | #5

    Hi,

    Thank you for the informative and entertaining posts!

    Donald

  6. Kelli Garner
    October 3, 2009 at 10:42 pm | #6

    Really nice posts. I will be checking back here regularly.

  7. dB.
    October 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm | #7

    ICG Refinancing Letter or “Thank you the internet from saving me from being dumb”
    pingback: http://www.dblock.org/ShowPost.aspx?id=1423

  8. October 22, 2009 at 5:02 am | #8

    hello,

    thanks for the great quality of your blog, each time i come here, i’m amazed.

  9. October 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm | #9

    Interesting… I thought that the quote “a new sucker is born every minute” was actually attributed P.T. Barnum

  10. Joseph
    October 28, 2009 at 1:33 pm | #10

    I received one of their letters and refinanced with them. They did a fine job and got me a good rate. I agree that maybe it wasn’t the best way of soliciting business, but it’s a tough market. Either way, they did the job they promised to do.

  11. jobaspiration
    November 7, 2009 at 9:59 am | #11

    I read the Mortgage Refinancing Shysters I and II. Deceitful, doesn’t even start describing this organization.
    Very absorbing!

  12. ej
    December 28, 2009 at 11:27 pm | #12

    I applied for a refinancing mortgage through ICG in 2006. They played around so long I went to another company. They actually called and left a message that they thought they had everything worked out while I was in settlement with the other company. What a joke.

  13. Greg
    March 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm | #13

    I refinanced with ICG and the loan was almost immediately sold. The problem is now I can’t get in touch with anybody at ICG and, more importantly, get a Federal Tax ID for submission with my tax return.

    The blog is quite correct in that their website appears normal until you try to either contact the numbers provided or use any of it’s tools. They go nowhere!!!

    Although my refinancing is complete I wouldn’t recommend ICG to anybody as they certainly don’t appear to be “above board”.

    • March 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm | #14

      Sorry to hear about your woes with ICG, if it is of any comfort to you, I have been contacted by a number of former ICG employees who shared some real horror stories about this outfit. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to contact some of the Federal banking regulatory agencies (FDIC, Federal Trade Commission, etc.) and let them know.

      Best of luck.

  14. machenryj
    March 23, 2010 at 3:00 am | #15

    I am so lucky I found your site. I was actually considering doing business with this company, having received one of the posted letters. I am having trouble making my present mortgage payments and so MY mortgage company
    requested various documents with a medical hardship letter, all of which I submitted. Their representative said it could take up to a month or two before it was considered. Lo, and behold, two weeks later, an officious looking letter in my mailbox. My first thought? That was fast! I am ashamed to say I almost fell for it. But thanks to your site, and others it will not happen. One less scammed tonight. Thank you very much.

  15. apelbaum
    March 23, 2010 at 3:26 am | #16

    Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your bad experience, I hope your search for a mortgage will be fast and painless. Best regards.

  16. Richard
    May 11, 2010 at 5:36 pm | #17

    Thanks for the posted blogs as i too was contemplating using their services but was hesitant until I do some research on this company for any scam of deceitful practices. I would advise anyone to carefully research all companies that you want to do business with and check with the BBB also. Again great job guys knowledge is power.

  17. b.cohen
    March 8, 2011 at 10:25 pm | #18

    Just received a letter almost identical to the one you print above. The difference was a line indicating that the form had been Revised Februaty 20, 2011, and an MA reference number rather than a NY one. With no desire to refinance, but annoyed at the slimy sound of it, I decided to check the web. Thanks for your posting!

  18. Ellen Faye
    June 18, 2011 at 11:47 am | #19

    Yesterday I received a solicitation letter 2 from ICG. Thought it was suspicious so looked it up on the internet & found your article. Letter will go in the trash where it belongs. I hope others will be as diligent to research these types of deceitful correspondence. Thank you for the information.

  19. October 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm | #20

    I love the layout and artwork of your blog. Well done!

  20. Marry Berthelette
    October 25, 2011 at 5:36 am | #21

    What did you use to design your graphics? It’s really retro can you send me an email and let me know?

  21. Souvanna
    November 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm | #22

    I found your website today after doing a google search for ICG. Thanks for the great articles about this fraud!

  22. November 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm | #23

    So, I read all this and got a little paranoid, as we were working with ICG to refi…

  23. April 23, 2013 at 3:46 am | #24

    Heya! I know this is kind of off-topic but I had to ask.
    How did you find the correlation between the litigation and the company?

  24. Brandy
    May 2, 2013 at 11:56 am | #25

    Greetings from Denver!!! It has been a while… Wasn’t sure it was you, but then I found the reference to WH/BH.
    I love the blog.

    Brandy.

  25. May 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm | #26

    I love your blog… Great images & theme.
    Did you develop this content yourself? Please reply back as
    I’m trying to create my own blog and would like to know where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!

    • May 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm | #27

      The theme is INove. It’s one of the standard templates. You can easily customize the HTML and fine tone it. The images are mostly my work. Mainly Photoshop and Illustrator.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Good luck,

      Yaacov

  26. Jane Z
    May 15, 2013 at 1:17 am | #28

    Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept telling me bout freebies. I will send this post to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a very good read and may even apply for a mortgage refinancing with them. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Carl D.
    July 8, 2013 at 1:01 am | #29

    So, did you get a mortgage with them :-)

    • November 11, 2013 at 4:57 am | #30

      Hi Carl,

      Not really. We went with our local credit union, it was fast, simple, and didn’t have any small print.

      Yaacov

  28. IM software
    July 16, 2013 at 2:46 am | #31

    I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever investigatiion and reporting!

  29. scooter b
    August 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm | #32

    ICG used to serve nice hot lunches on Fridays….LOL. Free food doesn’t do it. was a strange place to work.

  1. June 19, 2009 at 7:29 pm | #1
  2. February 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm | #2

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