Mortgage mess

Seven On Your Side
February 16, 2009 3:07:40 PM PST
It's a story that shows the lengths some banks will now go to get money owed to them. We found an unemployed homeowner who says his own bank debited his bank account without him knowing. Incredibly, it's a practice that's perfectly legal, and if you're not careful, it could happen to you. "I felt violated, I really did." Chuck Anthony's talking about his bank, Wachovia. He says it debited his checking account for the amount of a late mortgage paymen, sending his account into the negative.

"It was akin to going out somewhere and have someone rob you as far as I am concerned," said Chuck.

The Anthony family's story is not uncommon. Last year Chuck, a father of four and primary bread winner, got laid off. Last month, he fell more than a month behind on his mortgage. That's when Wachovia took the payment from his checking account.

"Then subsequently over-drafted us on every small debit we made." Chuck says as a result, over draft fees topped $600, throwing his account deep into the red. "I was shocked," said Chuck. "I didn't think any bank would have the ability to do that."

But they do. You'll find it in the fine print in most bank's account terms. It's called "set off of debts." It means if you have a loan at the same bank where your checking or savings account is, it can use the money in your account to pay a debt, like a mortgage.

"Your money is not really your money, if you do happen to have a problem," warns Chuck.

Wachovia did offer to return 25% of the overdraft fees. And, after our interview, Chuck found that Wachovia refunded him all the fees, more than $650. For Chuck, that will make a difference.

"This is you know, twenty tanks of gas. This is six weeks worth of milk and basic food products."

Wachovia told us they called Chuck before debiting his bank account but couldn't reach him. But Chuck says he got no warning. Most banks we called do have the right of "set off" but say they seldom use it. What sunk Chuck was that while he started out with his mortgage and checking accounts at different banks, Wells Fargo recently took over Wachovia and then they had access to his checking account.


Story by: Tappy Phillips

Produced by: Steve Livingstone