More Wells Fargo customers say the bank decided to put their mortgage payments on hold without asking


In March, Tammi Wilson was checking her family’s mortgage online at Wells Fargo when she saw a link to information about COVID-19 on the bank’s website. After clicking on it, she provided contact information so that she could receive materials about the bank’s programs. A few days later, she said, she returned to the payment page to pass on what she and her husband, David, owed on their loan. A message popped up saying she had no active account and couldn’t make the payment.

Wilson later learned what had happened. Unbeknownst to her, the bank had put her in a program that suspended payments on her federally guaranteed loan. Known as abstention, this is a CARES Act program that aims to help borrowers who are struggling to make their payments because they have been affected by COVID-19.

Because she hadn’t asked for forbearance, Wilson continued to make all of her family’s mortgage payments. She also spent hours on the phone with Wells Fargo to opt out of the program. Finally, on July 1, the bank sent her a letter confirming her request to “opt out” of the program to which she said she never enrolled.

Yet Wilson’s credit report, dated July 18 and reviewed by NBC News, shows the family mortgage is “on hold” and the April and May payments have not been credited to the account. even though the Wilson’s submitted them.

During the forbearance, Wilson and her husband almost certainly cannot refinance their mortgage, as most banks will not guarantee new loans for borrowers with suspended mortgage payments. As long as the forbearance statement remains on their credit report, the Wilson’s cannot take advantage of the lowest interest rates and are stuck at Wells fargo.

The Wilson family of Pelham, NH Wells Fargo suspended their loan without permission, affecting their credit reportLiz hogan

“I click that button and the next thing I know, I get something that says I’m deferred and can’t undo something I didn’t even want,” Wilson said in an interview. “If you want to help people, there is a very simple first step: just ask, ‘Do you need our help? “”

Under the CARES Act, which provides assistance for loans guaranteed by government-sponsored companies Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae and others, borrowers aggrieved by COVID-19 can apply to suspend their mortgage payments until a year. The amounts they owe during the period are either carried over to the ends of the loans or repaid before. No additional fees, interest or penalties may accrue on loans while they are forborne.

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Last week, NBC News reported on borrowers in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy that Wells Fargo had placed, without their permission, into forbearance programs. But the banking practice extends beyond these specialist borrowers, some of whom have contacted NBC News.

Wells Fargo is one of America’s largest banks underwriting and managing home loans. Borrowers in at least 14 states have told courts, lawyers or NBC News that they were coerced into forbearance plans by Wells Fargo: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

“In the spirit of providing assistance, we may have misinterpreted customer intentions in a small number of cases,” Wells Fargo spokesperson Mary Eshet said in a statement to NBC News. “In these limited cases, we work directly with clients to make sure they receive the support they need and make the necessary corrections to their accounts.”

The statement also said, “As soon as COVID started to impact our customers, Wells Fargo focused on assisting all customers who needed help, so we deferred 2.5 million. payments for consumers and small businesses. of the crisis – even before the passage of the CARES Act – we gave relief to mortgage and real estate clients who we learned had been affected by COVID by phone, through our secure messaging channel or by other means. this action through multiple channels, and we removed them from forbearance at their request. “

It was not possible to determine whether Wells could benefit from forbearance from voluntary borrowers, and the bank’s statement did not answer that question. By retaining borrowers who might otherwise refinance their mortgages with other institutions, Wells Fargo continues to operate. Wilson, for example, has said she would like to move her mortgage to another bank, but worries she won’t be able to give her credit report.

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This is not the first time that Wells Fargo has hired customers for services they did not request. The bank has come under pressure in recent years to open unsolicited bank accounts and credit cards for customers; it forced others to purchase auto insurance that they did not need and in some cases it was not discussed.

The sun rises behind a Wells Fargo building in El Paso, Texas on March 30, 2019.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the leading Democrat on the Banking Committee, called the bank.

“Once again, it appears that Wells Fargo’s sloppy service and poor management are hurting consumers,” he said in a statement. “Wells Fargo should immediately address each of these complaints and make changes to ensure that no borrower is left in a worse position because of the actions their service agent takes without their consent or without notice.”

Another Wells Fargo client who has been subjected to unwanted forbearance is Eileen Roth, a math professor in New Hartford, New York. Like Wilson, Roth’s abstention appears on his credit report.

She said that because her mortgage payments are automatically deducted from her bank account, she normally doesn’t care. She hadn’t asked the bank to suspend payments, but on June 22, she received a phone call from Wells Fargo. The representative said that because she had been in forbearance since March 20, her mortgage payments had stopped being deducted.

Roth said she was shocked and angry and told the bank that she was not interested in the program. The Wells Fargo employee insisted Roth had requested it “by mistake” on the bank’s website, Roth said; it wasn’t her mistake, she added.

“I have never been asked to participate in this program,” said Roth. “I started to worry that now, through no fault of my own, I have this on my file.”

Eileen and David Roth of New Hartford, NY, didn’t ask to stop paying their mortgage, but Wells Fargo put them on a relief program anyway.Courtesy of the Roth family

To protect troubled borrowers from damage to their credit reports during the pandemic, the CARES Act states that if a bank grants accommodation to a consumer – such as suspension of mortgage payments – it cannot signal a change in the situation. borrower status, such as no longer up to date on the loan. But when Wells Fargo reports borrowers are on forbearance, it indicates a change in their status, raising questions about the practice.

The Wells Fargo spokesperson said that “the bank’s credit reports for customers in COVID-19 forbearance meet the requirements of the CARES Act, the guidelines of the Consumer Data Industry Association, and the expectations of our regulators. . These requirements include reporting from clients who were up to date on their mortgage. or home equity payments when they entered a COVID forbearance as “Current” with a special comment indicating that the account is forborne. “

In late March, Gerald Forsburg of Mount Jackson, Va., Also visited the Wells Fargo website and quickly found himself on a forbearance plan. The plan destroyed the loan modification he got from Wells Fargo days earlier, which reduced his monthly payments by more than $ 200.

Forsburg said he went to Wells Fargo’s website to check the status of his loan modification. “This button appears – if you’ve been affected by COVID, click here. I don’t remember clicking anything else,” he said.

On May 1, when he went online to make his first lower payment on the loan modification, the system wouldn’t let him pay. His account only showed the larger amounts owed on his previous loan. Then, in June, Wells Fargo sent him a letter telling him that the suspension of his mortgage payment had been extended for another three months.

“When I clicked the original button, I had no idea I was getting an abstention,” Forsburg said. “There was no description of the legal ramifications of clicking that button. It’s very scary for me and my family. We don’t want to lose our home.”

Thad Bartholow, lawyer at Kellett & Bartholow, represents Forsburg in a lawsuit against Wells Fargo. He said: “Tolerance is an extremely powerful drug. It’s like putting someone on opioids for a minor headache after they tell you they don’t want or need anything at all.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, before a bank managing a loan can grant a forbearance, it is supposed to receive a certificate from the borrower of financial hardship related to COVID-19. But none of the Wells Fargo borrowers who shared their stories with NBC News provided the bank with such documents.

Eshet, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, did not explain why the bank does not require certification from borrowers.


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