Q. My son was in a bad motorcycle accident that left him mentally incompetent and has been involuntarily committed. A real estate agent kept selling him houses even though I told him my son was incompetent.

My son’s credit rating went down and the only means of saving his $25,000 down payment on one of his purchases was for me to co-sign on his loan. The lender ran my credit history, which was excellent, and then made a completely false loan application in my name.

I am a senior surviving on Social Security and I earn less than $16,000 a year. They wrote down that I was a computer specialist and lied about my age.

I found out about these issues after selling some of my son’s other properties and the one I that I got hooked into by the broker and lender. When I sold this last property I sold it as a short sale and the lender notified me that they thought I had been a victim of identity fraud.

I have the information with all kinds of proof with the Real Estate Commission in Pennsylvania and also the Pennsylvania Department of Banking. The mortgage broker was also in on this fraud. He obtained the mortgages for the three other houses that were sold to my son in less than 6 months.

My son filed for bankruptcy and I am about to lose the house I have lived in for 39 years because I am so far in debt from my sons problems.

I have been looking for a lawyer that would take the case on and be paid out of winnings but have had no success. Do you have any advice for me? What is the latest date I can sue the real estate broker and the mortgage broker?

A: Except for personal injury cases, class action lawsuits and some other high recovery judgment cases, attorneys will rarely take on a case on a contingency basis, or on the basis of what is recovered.

For an attorney to take on a case like yours there has to be the potential for a windfall. In your case you might recover some of your losses, unless there is a statute in your state that allows for a recovery of not only penalties but attorneysâ€ââ€Â¢ fees.

Keep in mind that even if your state has such a statute, you would still have to pay the cost of the attorney up front. If you won the case, the court would reimburse you for your attorneysâ€ââ€Â¢ fees.

You have done the right thing in reporting these incidents to the departments that regulate real estate brokers and mortgage brokers. You may also want to file complaints with your attorney generalâ€ââ€Â¢s office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

You may also find that you can file a complaint with the real estate company and mortgage broker company that harmed you by contacting the regional or national office for these companies. If these companies have a dispute resolution department, you may be able to file a claim for alternative dispute mediation and settle your claims through the companiesâ€ââ€Â¢ mechanisms.

Before you proceed in that manner, you should probably consult with an attorney. In some cases, departments will enforce different matters with different speed and force. You may find that you get more action out of one department over the other. You may also have to follow up with your complaint with each of the department to determine if it is getting anywhere.

I would, however, suggest that you find a competent attorney that specializes in litigation and discuss your case with them. You may decide not to hire them, but for an hour or two of their time you may be able to obtain more information about whether you or your son have a case against any of the parties that have injured you, what it would cost to sue them, and what you could expect to get if you prevail.

You can also find out what the statute of limitations is in your state for your claims. In some states you must sue within one, two, five or even ten years on a case. Each state differs on the dates and your attorney should have some idea as to what the date would be. You may also want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney relating to your debts and what you should do to protect yourself and your property of 39 years. Good luck.

Sept. 21, 2004.