WASHINGTON — Anti-predatory-lending activists gained a big ally Tuesday when AARP, the 34 million-member association of Americans 50 or older, announced a yearlong advocacy campaign aimed at educating borrowers and promoting legislation to rein in unscrupulous mortgage lenders.

The group defines predatory lending as “a collection of unfair and deceptive practices used by some lenders to pressure homeowners into signing up for high-cost and often unaffordable mortgage loans.”

AARP associate executive director Dawn Sweeney said in a press release: “There is an outrageous downside to the rosy scenarios offered by unscrupulous lenders.” Foreclosure by the lender — the ultimate downside — inspired the campaign’s motto, “They didn’t tell me I could lose my home.”

The association said it will cooperate with other advocacy groups and law enforcement officials to make informational “borrower’s kits” available to people seeking mortgages or a home equity loans. It will also offer toll-free hotlines for borrowers with questions about loan offers and a Web site offering more information.

It said its lobbyists will press state lawmakers to pass legislation protecting consumers from predatory lenders. Its initial efforts are to be focused on states such as New York and California, where anti-predatory-lending legislation has already been introduced.

Other fair-housing advocates applauded AARP’s entry into the battle.

“AARP has the clout to force the leadership of major financial institutions to adopt the best practices that community groups have been clamoring for,” said Robert Gnaizda, general counsel for the Greenlining Institute in San Francisco. “Given its extensive membership, if AARP advocacy were of the same type practiced by most community groups, there would be major changes in less than a year.”

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