The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 450,177 refund checks worth almost $108 million to homeowners who were allegedly overcharged by Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. As part of the FTC’s efforts to protect financially distressed homeowners, the FTC reached a settlement with Countrywide last year over allegations that the company collected excessive fees from borrowers who were struggling to keep their homes.
“It’s astonishing that a single company could be responsible for overcharging more than 450,000 homeowners,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “Countrywide’s unconscionable behavior harmed American consumers on a massive scale and we are proud to be getting every single dollar back to hundreds of thousands of struggling consumers who can least afford to lose the money.”
The FTC’s June 2010 settlement order required Countrywide, which is now owned by Bank of America, to pay $108 million to be used for refunds and barred the company from taking advantage of borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments. The refunds are being distributed to consumers whose loans were serviced by Countrywide between January 1, 2005, and July 1, 2008, and who were subject to the company’s allegedly unlawful practices.
According to the FTC, homeowners who were in default on their loans were charged excessive fees for services such as property inspections, lawn mowing, and other services meant to protect the lender’s interest in the property. Rather than simply hire third-party vendors to perform the services, Countrywide used subsidiaries to hire the vendors. The subsidiaries allegedly marked up the price of the services charged by the vendors – often by 100 percent or more – and Countrywide then charged the homeowners the marked-up fees. The FTC complaint alleges that the company’s strategy was to increase profits from default-related service fees in bad economic times.
Also, in servicing loans for borrowers trying to save their homes in Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings, the FTC alleged that Countrywide made false or unsupported claims to borrowers about amounts owed or the status of their loans, and added fees and escrow charges to their mortgage accounts without notice.
Money never starts an idea. It is always the idea that starts the money.
Money will come when you are doing the right thing.
Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.
— Wayne Dyer
A Little Humor – New Math Edition
A sixth-grade teacher was giving her class an arithmetic problem: “A wealthy woman died with an estate worth $10 million. She left one-fifth to her daughter, another one-fifth to her son, one-sixth to charity, and the rest to her second husband. Now, what does each person get?”
A smart kid in the back of class answered, “A lawyer.”
IF SOLD OR GIFTED, GET VEHICLES OUT OF YOUR NAME!
I had a lady come in recently, she had a $65,000 judgment against her and she needed to file bankruptcy. What happened? Well, she had an old car in her backyard that needed to go to the junkyard.
A neighbor came by, said he would take it off her hands, take the motor out of it and junk the rest. Instead, he decided to repair and drive the car, which he did.
Well, long story short, he had an accident in the car, and seriously hurt a woman. The woman sued, and her lawyer also sued the owner of the car (now my bankruptcy client), as a responsible party. The $65,000 judgment was the result.
Don’t risk it! If you own a vehicle and you decide you no longer want it or decide to sell it, make sure it is out of your name. If you don’t, you may be subject to criminal or civil liability for accidents, parking tickets, toll violations, fines or other penalties. If nothing else, contact the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and submit a Vehicle Transfer Notification form.
Stay safe when debt collectors call
Most of us want to pay our debts, but sometimes it’s harder than it should be.
When debt collectors call, the situation can become a nightmare—especially when they lie. Be smart, consult an attorney, and don’t fall for these common deceptions:
• “We’ll keep calling until you pay up.” Harassing tactics are illegal, so bill collectors can’t keep your phone ringing morning, noon, and night.
• “We’ll garnish your wages.” Bill collectors can’t garnish paychecks here in Texas, with limited exceptions like child support, student loans and the I.R.S. The only other exception is if they have a judgment against you from out of state – not likely if you have not owned a business and have lived in Texas for a long time.
• “We’ll call you at work.” You can legally stop debt collectors from phoning you at work if your employer has a policy concerning personal phone calls on the job.
• “We’ll talk to your family and friends.” Without permission, bill collectors can’t contact anyone but the person they claim owes money.
• “Just send us a postdated check.” They may attempt to cash the check early. And they’ll have all your banking information.
• “We don’t need to prove that you owe money.”
If you don’t remember the debt, don’t agree to anything. Send the collector a letter disputing the debt and requesting the name and address of the original creditor.
For more information, go to www.ftc.gov, or make an appointment to meet with Mr. Black or his Associate Attorney Alex Higginbotham.
Call Us If You Need Us. We Also Welcome Referrals
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Debt Negotiations and Settlements.
Mortgage Loan Modifications.
Fair Debt Collection Practices.
I.R.S. Collection Defense.
Wills and Trusts. ■
ARE YOU IN CHAPTER 13 NOW?
Always keep the law office updated with your current address, telephone numbers, and email address. We may need to reach you quickly.
You can check on the status of your Trustee payments, how much you still owe on your case, etc., by going to www.13datacenter.com to set up your user ID and password.
Lose job or overtime? Expenses increase? Want to give up property to lower payments? Call the office for a Motion to Modify worksheet. Complete it and fax it to the office at 713-772-5058. We’ll review it and contact you if a change to your plan is possible.