They arrive in the mail all the time and they pop up on your computer screen -- those home-refinancing ads that promise rock-bottom rates and easy approval.

They're tempting, but they can also be misleading.

Joe Mosello wanted to get a lower mortgage rate, but he says because his income is unpredictable and he co-signed his children's college loans.

Everywhere he turned, he was told he's a poor credit risk.

Then he got something in the mail.

"They said they could help us, and after hitting a brick wall with all thse other banks and online things, we jumped at it," said Joe Mosello.

He says the company promised to get his lower mortgage rate and asked for 3,$500 up front.

"In most cases, it is illegal for a company to charge you anything before they have offered you a loan deal in writing and you have accepted it," said Tobie Stanger, with Consumer Reports.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating deceptive mortgage ads and created some fake ones to warn consumers of red flags like "guaranteed approval" or "low fixed rates" with no details.

Or ads that look like they're from a government agency.

Consumer Reports says the best way to get a good loan from a legit lender is to buff up your credit score by clearning up black marks with the three credit bureaus and pay off as much debt as you can.

It's also worth checking makinghomeaffordable.gov.

For people like Joe, it may offer some good options.