Losing a home is serious, but a Nassau businessman has
turned the mortgage crisis into a board game - ForeclosureOpoly - that he says
will help homeowners learn about financial responsibility.
D. Alexis Samuels, an executive at Commerce America, a mortgage banker,
broker and loan servicer in Lake Success, said he wanted a fun way for families
to learn about mortgages, credit scores and foreclosure prevention.
"The topic of foreclosure is nothing to play with," said Samuels, who
created the game with Iaasha Wright, both founders of Commerce America. "We
feel ironically the best way to communicate or to educate is at the kitchen
table, not in a seminar at the local bank or at the diner. ... Many people that
are facing foreclosure feel ashamed about not knowing."
In the roll-the-dice game, players' credit scores and cash coffers are
affected by life's expenses and trivia questions. Need new shoes? Pay $500.
Don't know how long bad credit reports can affect your score? Give up 10 points
on the credit score and $1,000. Those who run out of money go to the
foreclosure section and get scammed, get help or get lucky.
Answers to trivia questions, from feng shui to types of mortgage
transactions, are based on research and reports from various groups, including
the government, Samuels said.
But some financial experts said the answers are too black and white.
For example, one answer notes that if a library fine goes to collection,
the credit score can fall by 100 points. Credit experts said it depends on the
person's current score, the credit bureau's formula, the fine amount and other
"Because every consumer's credit situation is unique, suggesting that a
certain action will result in a specific point gain or loss could have the
unintended effect of misinforming or confusing consumers whose actual impact
may vary," said Steven Katz, spokesman at TransUnion, one of the three major
Samuels doesn't think players will take answers too literally: "We can't
ask a question and give seven different answers, but we have to provide a
guideline ... to make the point. What we're trying to teach is responsible
practice and on-time payments."
The nonprofit Community Development Corp. of Long Island borrows from
"Jeopardy!" to teach home buyers in classes, and it helps people remember
better, said Joanie LaFemina, manager of homeowner services: "When they start
doing something in a way that doesn't feel like structured education, they can