Bank of America Customer Assistance Centers: (877) 488-7814
JPMorgan Chase & Washington Mutual Chase Homeownership Center: (866) 372-6901
Ally Financial & GMAC Homeowner Assistance: (800) 766-4622
Citibank & Citimortgage: (866) 272-4749
Wells Fargo & Wachovia: (800) 288-3212
HUD-Approved Housing Counselor: (800) 569-4287
National Mortgage Settlement hotline: (866) 430-8358
Watch out for fraud
There are reports of scammers calling borrowers claiming to be one of the major banks involved in the settlement and offering a cash payment to consumers if customers provide the routing number to access their bank account. If you receive an unsolicited call from a major bank, here’s advice to identify scams:
1. Does the caller identify themselves as representing your mortgage servicer? Or do they ask you to provide the name of your mortgage servicer? If they ask for the name of your servicer, they may be a scammer.
2. Does the caller offer to provide your personal information to assist you in identifying your account? Or do they ask you to provide that? If the caller is from your mortgage servicer, they will be able to tell YOU your personal information because they will have it. Never provide your personal information (bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc.) to an unsolicited caller.
3. Does the caller offer to speed your settlement relief for a fee? This is a scam. Neither the banks nor the Attorneys General will charge a fee to speed your settlement. It is free to apply for payments from the mortgage settlement.
4. If you think the caller may be legitimate, ask for their contact information, tell them you are going to call your bank’s hotline number and confirm, then call them back. If they don’t want you to check on them and won’t provide their contact information, it’s likely a scam.
This newspaper has been the leading source of news and information on the foreclosure crisis and its vast impact on the area’s economy since 2008. Readers can count on thorough, ongoing coverage of this important topic.
Local foreclosure filings by county
2008 to 2011
*Figures for Clark and Champaign counties were not immediately available. The five banks in the settlement are involved in many, but not all, of these foreclosure cases.
More than 64,000 Ohioans will receive letters this fall stating they may be eligible for payments of at least $840 from the National Mortgage Settlement.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the National Mortgage Settlement Administrator are mailing the letters through Friday to those who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 to 2011 through actions by five of the nation’s biggest banks — Ally, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
The settlement stems from the so-called robo-signing scandal that erupted in 2010, where these five banks were accused of shoddy mortgage paperwork. The money comes from the $25 billion joint state-federal settlement reached this year with the banks.
Ohio’s share of the settlement is $335 million, which includes money to help “underwater” and delinquent homeowners, people who were victims of bad foreclosure practices, and for foreclosure prevention. More than $200 million of that is to go out directly to people “who either lost their home or to people who have been hurt by this or are upside down in their mortgage,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The payments will not make anyone rich or help them get back their house, DeWine said.
“This is a little compensation. It’s certainly better than not getting it,” he said. “We encourage people to apply, but it’s not going to make them whole.”
Eligible foreclosed borrowers will receive a minimum $840. They could receive more depending on how many people submit claims, said Dan Tierney, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
Ohio has an estimated $44 million dedicated to these claims. The total $1.5 billion nationwide dedicated to claims is “going to be divided against the number of claimants.”
The deadline to submit a claim is Jan. 18. Payments are expected to be made next year.
People who believe they’re eligible for a payment and haven’t received a claim form can contact the National Mortgage Settlement Administrator at (866) 430-8358, Mondays through Fridays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. central time.
How money has been allocated
The national settlement became official in April. Ohio’s $335 million share of the funds was split this way:
— $44 million to Ohio residents who lost their homes to improper foreclosure.
— $97 million to the Attorney General’s Office. DeWine used $75 million to start a local government demolition grant program to help communities remove blighted properties. As of Friday, $805,766 has been approved in matching fund demolitions, Tierney said. About $2 million of the $97 million is destined for the office’s economic crimes division.
— The $97 million also includes $20 million set aside for a foreclosure prevention grant program. Tierney said to date $4 million has been spent on the grant program, divided among seven legal aid societies in Ohio.
— $102 million in home loan modifications, and $90 million in refinancing from the banks involved.
The bank institutions have until 2016 to fully comply with their obligations, but have incentives to act sooner, according to the monitor’s office.
Letters from the banks
The banks have been sending offers in the mail for mortgage refinances and loan modifications.
JPMorgan Chase, for example, said it is automatically refinancing loans for homeowners who are current on their payments, but owe more than their homes are worth and have a high interest rate above 5.25 percent. The average savings is $300 month. In most cases, those homeowners don’t have to take any action, said Chase spokeswomanAmy Bonitatibus.
Chase is also sending solicitations for loan modifications to homeowners who have fallen behind on their payments. The offer requires the homeowners to arrange appointments with the bank. The average loan principal forgiven by Chase for Ohio homeowners was $39,241, she said.
“I think a lot of people literally, they open up the letter and they seem to question because it seems too good to be true. That’s why the refinance offers have been so successful because in many cases we’re not requiring action,” Bonitatibus said. “We too have found that the response rate among homeowners in the past couple years, they’ve been inundated with communications, the response rate is down.”
About 2,350 homeowners across the state were forgiven $69,486,926 on their mortgages from the end of March to the end of June by the five banks involved, according to the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight, in charge of overseeing banks’ compliance with the settlement.
These are current homeowners who qualify because their loan is owned and serviced by the banks involved in the settlement, they’re behind on payments and/or their mortgage is underwater.
“This relief is much-needed aid for distressed borrowers who may now be able to avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. In addition, the consumer relief will help the struggling neighborhoods and communities around them grow stronger,” said Joseph Smith, the monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement, in a statement.