Published: May 13, 2013 2:22 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Consumer Reports) - They arrive in the mail all the time and keep popping up on your computer screen -- home refinancing ads that promise rock-bottom mortgage rates and easy approval. They’re tempting, but Consumer Reports says watch out, because the offers can be misleading.

 

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating deceptive mortgage ads and has created fake ones based on real come-ons in order to warn consumers. Some red flags include promises such as “guaranteed approval” or “low fixed rates” with no details, or ads that look like they’re from a government agency.  Be aware that it is illegal in most cases for a company to charge you until you are offered -- and accept -- a loan deal in writing.


The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have pored through hundreds of ads, and recently they warned about 30 companies that they may be breaking the law.

 

Consumer Reports says the best way to get a good loan from legitimate lenders: Buff up your credit score by clearing up black marks and errors with the three credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. And pay off as much debt as you can.

 

It’s also worth checking the Federal website MakingHomeAffordable.gov.

 

A good place to start to find a legitimate commercial lender is with a bank or credit union where you already have an account. And don’t forget that you can get free copies of your credit reports once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.