How can I pressure my mortgage servicer to give me my money back?
May 16, 2013 10:42 AM   Subscribe

On Monday morning, my mortgage servicer withdrew my mortgage payment from my checking account, along with an additional withdrawal of close to $2000.

I'm trying to get this money back, but every time I call customer service, they give me a different fax number to send documents, and each time I call they claim they have not received the documents I sent proving this additional withdrawal.

What can I do here? I *need* this money, and I'm feeling sort of powerless here.
posted by rocketman to Law & Government (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you contacted the bank where you have your checking account? If it was an unauthorized withdrawal, perhaps they can help with addressing the problem.
posted by cranberry_nut at 10:44 AM on May 16, 2013

I'm not sure whether this is answerable without more information. Why did your servicer withdraw the additional $2000?
posted by sevensnowflakes at 10:45 AM on May 16, 2013

Was this the first time you had authorized them to withdraw money from your account? If you are sure that you don't owe them the additional amount, you should call and ask to speak to the CEO's office to get it sorted out. You shouldn't have to send documents to prove that the additional withdrawal was wrong.
posted by rasputin98 at 10:50 AM on May 16, 2013

Best answer: I had an issue like that (there was an issue with escrow and taxes and what not). Took a while (and I got my original lawyer from the closing involved) but it got done. I'd call explain the situation, tell them that you've faxed the documents to X numbers, tell them it's getting ridiculous, and that you want to escalate the issue. See if you can deal with a specific person there and get their direct number.
posted by pyro979 at 10:50 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

My sympathies are with you--I've been dealing with our mortgage company, who is holding funds that our insurance company paid out for the destruction of our garage a few months ago, and getting that money from them is a nightmare.

Make sure you have concrete proof (date and time) of the faxes. Dollars to doughnuts, they're lying to you about not getting them, and you need to push the person on the phone about it. If they claim they don't have it, tell them they need to go look again, and tell them exactly when it was sent (and labeled as received per your fax machine). I did that and by golly, the second time the person on the phone returned and she had it in hand (make them read something on it to you so they can't claim they got the wrong thing).

You may also want to consider sending via certified overnight mail (freaking expensive, but it gives them little to no excuse).
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is your property tax and/or homeowners insurance included in your payment? Perhaps there was an escrow shortfall?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:58 AM on May 16, 2013

Response by poster: Why did your servicer withdraw the additional $2000?

I'm sort of curious to know that myself.

My property tax and homeowners insurance *are* included in my payment, but there was no escrow shortfall - last year we were over by about 70 bucks.

Part of the issue is that nobody will give me any phone numbers, there's only the one generic 800 number for all calls, and the one address in NJ that's referenced everywhere.
posted by rocketman at 11:04 AM on May 16, 2013

rocketman, if you researched the company online, you might be able to find numbers associated with that address, or if you know the CEOs name or any names, you might be able to find some public information on them. It sounds like the people on the phone either don't know or don't care.

What about in your mortgage paperwork...are there addresses, names, anything that you can use to search with?

But whoever you talk to, you should definitely be mentioning "lawyer" and "legal action" and possibly "theft" or "fraud" depending on how angry you are.

I would also second talking to your bank; maybe they have some information about the withdrawal that will help.

Do they have a FB or Twitter account? Any social media contact you can use at all?
posted by emjaybee at 11:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

What kind of mortgage do you have? Was your property reassessed for taxes?
posted by elsietheeel at 11:45 AM on May 16, 2013

Best answer: If they're giving you any kind of runaround, it may be time to lawyer up.

On another note, it may be more prudent to use your bank's bill-pay feature, where they cut and send a check (or transfer to their bank account) for the mortgage amount, rather than authorize the mortgage company to debit your account directly.

I was screwed over on a car loan where the finance company decided to take a monthly payment out of my account once a week. I wound up not getting the money returned (tho they did apply it to the loan). Since then, I set it and forget it with my bank's bill-pay service.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2013

Dispute the charge with your bank. With debit/credit charges they'll do an investigation and get your money back. Not sure if this is the same but I'd go there the instant I got any pushback from the mortgage company.
posted by cnc at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2013

Best answer: Seconding Slap*Happy on the bills coming out of your Bill Pay function.

I too have had a bad experience with "the banks". And the less automated things are the better off you are.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2013

nthing real property attorney. bastards kept me in the dark for two years until my attorney started telling me how to shake things up. Mostly we created an accumulation of telephone calls and written responses that put them in a bad light, then used that for leverage.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:00 PM on May 16, 2013

I urge you to keep extensive notes. PHH Mortgage played a very similar game with me, and the outcome was quite messy and unpleasant for a while. From memory, they have an office in Mt. Laurel and another office nearby but in another state, and they always "lose" paperwork between the two offices. The paperwork can be faxes, forms you mail to them, checks.... Seriously. Do not trust them. Keep extensive notes and keep on top of this.

They are one of the 3 mortgage service companies that USAA uses. If your mortgage is held by USAA, I'd contact them too. USAA does not like to get involved because they hire PHH to handle everything, but I'd give that a shot.

I just dialed the number I had for a human over there, and it's been disconnected. However, googling the first 6 digits plus "PHH" gives me phone numbers. I think there's a rule about posting this type of stuff here, so I'll send you a MeFiMail with the digits.
posted by Houstonian at 2:38 PM on May 16, 2013

How was it drawn from your account? ACH/pre-authorized check, etc. See if you can dispute the withdrawal as unauthorized through your bank. Even though you do business with your mortgage service, you did not authorize them to withdraw anything but your monthly mortgage payment, correct?
posted by Verdandi at 2:56 PM on May 16, 2013

I am a mortgage loan officer. IANYMLO.

Call your servicer. They don't like horror stories. Let them know that you are willing to go to the media. Watch them dance for you.

I am willing to bet this is some issue with the escrow account. They will tell you they sent you a letter warning you this was gonna happen. If you didn't get it, tell them.

Use terms like, "hardship" and "media" and tell them to escalate to a manager. Trust me... you'll get your money back if it is the escrow account.
posted by brownrd at 3:46 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

On your next call, tell the servicer you talk to that you will be calling the Wisconsin Attorney General's office if this is not resolved promptly. If they don't give answers, then call the AG and file a formal complaint. (If your profile is out of date, replace "Wisconsin" with whichever state is appropriate.)
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:31 PM on May 16, 2013

Response by poster: Just to update everybody:

I have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, but the loan originated with my local credit union, who sold it to PHH Mortgage. My taxes have been going down, since my property seems to be leaking value year after year. I've checked my escrow information, and I don't owe them anything for that. Like I said above, we were over by $70 last year and they cut me a check. My monthly payment dropped a small amount accordingly.

I got a surprise withdrawal about two years ago that *was* the escrow account, so now I watch my totals like a hawk to make sure everything is matching up.

The withdrawals happened via ACH. The farthest I've gone with my credit union is asking for a letter stating what they've seen on their end, and documentation of the withdrawal, which they happily provided (this was Monday morning, after I saw the transfer on my online credit union records).

After posting this question, I faxed them another copy of the documents, and scribbled on the cover sheet that I was canceling my automatic payments, and was not going to pay another dime until this was resolved. Then, I called the 800 number again, and when I got the call center employee, I explained that I needed that money to buy food.

He responded by saying, "Yes, Mr. Rocketman, let me check on that for you..."

He gave me the runaround about faxing the documents again, and I told him I had done so, and would he please connect me with this "Cash Management" department. He said he could not, so I asked if they did not have telephones in "Cash Management". He said he didn't have the number, so I asked him to connect me to a supervisor who did.

The supervisor who ultimately answered had a very fake-sounding name, but at least wasn't reading from a script. He apologized, asked me to email him my documents, confirmed that he got them, and said he felt they would meet the standard to prove my complaint. He gave me his number, extension, and a case number to reference on my complaint. He said once the issue had been resolved, he would send the check to me via express mail.

I'm going to call back tomorrow just to see where everything stands, and hopefully I don't get the runaround anymore.

One interesting side note: when I asked to have my automatic withdrawals canceled, I was told they already had been canceled, as of two months ago.

This whole experience makes me want to refinance just to get away from these lowlifes, but my guess is that my credit union would sell the new loan to them.
posted by rocketman at 5:31 PM on May 16, 2013

any luck?
posted by pyro979 at 12:33 PM on May 21, 2013

Response by poster: Okay.

The refund check came in the mail today. All it really took was getting that supervisor on the phone and emailing him the documents. I called every business day since then, with no updates, and was ready to start banging on other drums starting today (my credit union, the state attorney general's office, the FTC, the etc).

The supervisor did call me today (after I had already received the check) to let me know that my complaint had been approved, and he had a UPS tracking number ready to give me. He also apologized a second time.

All in all, I'm reasonably satisfied with how this has turned out. I'm not going to re-engage the automatic withdrawals ever ever ever, but I feel slightly less angry toward PHH Mortgage.

They need to do something about that customer service call center, though. I'm glad they're able to give jobs to people who need them, but you need to empower those people to be real advocates for customers instead of patronizing robots.
posted by rocketman at 11:24 AM on May 22, 2013

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