Fair housing advocates and politicians gathered at the state Capitol today to announce Don’t Borrow Trouble , a campaign to educate Connecticut consumers about predatory lenders and how to avoid getting devoured.

“Predatory lending robs people of their wealth, their homes, and in many cases, their dignity,” said Michael Innis-Thompson, a senior director at Freddie Mac, the federally created mortgage company. Often targeting their efforts to the elderly, the working poor and first time home buyers, predatory lenders charge exorbitant interest rates, excessive fees and use tactics like balloon payments, enabling them to foreclose on a homeowner and take their property. Since a home is most people’s sole piece of acquired wealth, losing a property devastates families, advocates said.“Nothing is more basic to our economy and people’s lives than owning the roof over people’s heads,” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. “Predatory lending turns that dream into a nightmare.“Along with a web site, the Don’t Borrow Trouble campaign will use billboards, posters and radio announcements to encourage consumers to call Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Infoline. “Callers will then be referred to trained professionals who can offer free legal advice for purchasing a home, refinancing, consolidating debt, taking out a home-equity loan, and mortgage foreclosure prevention,” a press release said.“In the long run, the very best defense against predatory lending is knowledge,” said Alan Cicchetti, deputy commissioner of the Department of Banking.Attempts to toughen predatory lending laws have met with resistance in the legislature. Last year, bills designed to apply stricter standards to so-called ‘reverse mortgages’ did not even come to a vote in the Banks Committee. “The committee was not convinced this was a significant enough problem,” said Erin Kemple, executive director of the Fair Housing Center, adding that next session, advocates and Blumenthal plan to push bills that would require stricter notification of foreclosures, among other ideas.