Scam artists are taking advantage of people who are afraid of losing their home to foreclosure.

Those trying to take advantage are setting up foreclosure rescue firms that promise to help people who are falling behind on their mortgage payments.

In exchange for that help, homeowners are asked to pay an upfront fee.

The rescue firm then promises to workout a deal with the bank to stop foreclosure proceedings.

The homeowner is then told to pay reduced mortgage payments directly to the firm rather than to the bank. The homeowner is also discouraged from speaking to the lender.

"These companies are good at convincing people they're legitimate. They have head offices, websites, they advertise through newspapers, they come across as very legitimate," says Cst. Chris Hayduk, a mortgage fraud expert.

By the time the proceedings are complete, the culprits are gone and the homeowners have lost their property and their money.

Hayduk says another tactic he's seen foreclosure con artists use is to claim they have an investor who is going to help pay down the mortgage.

In that case, the homeowner is asked to put the investor on their property title under the guise of giving the investor security. That enables the con artist to take a second mortgage out on the home and even kick the homeowner off the property.

Hayduk says he's seen foreclosure frauds jump exponentially in the last year.