Her wonderful new car seemed like such a good idea when she bought it–

Shawana, Car Owner

"I love the car, my kids love it."

But when economic reality hit the monthly payments on her car loan too big for her budget.

Shawana, Car Owner

"It was hard for me to come up with $462 a month."

Then she thought she'd found an auto lifeline. For car owners in financial distress, she was told, there were places that could convince lenders to modify her car loan kind of like refinancing a mortgage.  All she had to do was pay $295 in advance and she did.

Shawana, Car Owner

"It was going to mean more money for me and my family. So it made me feel good."

Can you really get your car payments lowered? The answer may surprise you: yes. And more on that in a minute. But should you pay to do it? Absolutely not.

Barbara Anthony, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

"The thing you don't need to do is spend more money that you don't have letting someone else steer you in a direction that isn't going to help you."

Here's why: experts say deceptive auto loan modification is the next big rip off. Companies are springing up across the country..offering to call your lender and get your car payments slashed. But look at the complaints we found:

"The $350.00 I spent was for nothing."

"I have not received relief!"

"Never received any service."

"Nothing has happened."

"I am very upset."

And Shawana is not out almost 300 bucks.

Shawana, Car Owner

"It's wrong, I'm not the only person they took money from!"

This lawsuit by the Florida attorney general charges one company had 20,000 victims. People who paid to get their car loans modified, and then got nothing.

Barbara Anthony, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

"I think it's outrageous the companies are trying to take advantage of people."

We called other companies we found on the internet. They told us we "wouldn't have the proper paperwork," to do it . One said he'd "bet us fifty thousand dollars" we'd fail: but for 300 dollars he'd "negotiate" for us. Bank experts say that's ridiculous.

Nessa Feddis American Bankers Association 

"They don't have a magic relationship, nobody has a magic relationship with any particular lender or bank."

But here's the car loan scoop.  You can't get your payments lowered unless there's a good reason but if you've lost your job or have medical problems it *is* possible. And the best way to get a car loan modification is do it yourself.

Nessa Feddis American Bankers Association 

"The banks and other lenders are very willing to negotiate directly with their customers and that's probably how they're gonna get the best deal."

Experts say:

Contact your lender Have documentation of why you need help Keep paying on timeDon't wait till it's an emergency.

Nessa Feddis American Bankers Association 

"Go sooner than later, don't wait to be late."

If you've lost money to a deceptive car loan modification company, the best thing to do is contact your Attorney General's office.   

To file a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office click here: Complaints & Mediation Services

Here's more tips from the Better Business Bureau: TIPS

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox