Man's telephone mistake almost results in foreclosure
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — When Tom Mudie was approved for a mortgage modification program, he thought his foreclosure troubles were over.
Bank of America lowered his monthly payment by nearly $200.
All he had to do was make the new payments - on time for three months - and the new amount would be made permanent.
But a simple error - hitting a "0" on his telephone keypad instead of an "8" - threatened not only to cancel the savings but also to cost him his home.
"I want to keep my home," Mudie said. "And to lose it over 80 cents is crazy."
Mudie paid his second trial mortgage payment by phone.
The keypad mistake meant that instead of paying $615.82, he paid $615.02.
He was three quarters and a nickel short.
The mistake meant that, in the precise calculus of the computer, Mudie broke his modification contract.
He was kicked out of the program.
Banking and government officials say his story reflects a broader trend of simple mistakes with consequences that are all out of proportion, hurting homeowners' modification chances.
When he realized what happened, Mudie said, he contacted a customer service representative who told him to send a check for the 80 cents.
That would clear up the problem, he said he was told.
"I did everything they told me to," Mudie said. "I wrote the check for 80 cents, as crazy as that sounds. I included it with my next payment. They cashed it."
But the next month, Bank of America sent back the 80 cents - plus the next payment he had made.
Then a letter from the bank arrived bearing bad news:
"Your loan is not eligible for the Fannie Mae modification program because you did not make all the required trial period plan payments by the end of the trial period."
It goes on to say the foreclosure is back on track. Then other alarming paperwork arrived.
"This home transition guide is through the United Way," read one pamphlet.
"When you start seeing that," Mudie said, "you start thinking charities and stuff. So I knew that I am in trouble."
Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said it all boils down to the computer glitch.
Just like Mudie, she said, the bank made an error when it booted him from the program.
Bauwens took a closer look at Mudie's account and said the bank is in the process of crediting him for the payment he made.
She said that because the problem partly was caused by the bank, he's back on track with the plan for lower monthly payments.
"He's in the process of getting a permanent modification," Bauwens said. "The paperwork is not finalized, but that 80 cent error is not going to create any additional issues for him."
Though Mudie's loan is serviced by Bank of America, it actually is owned by government-backed Fannie Mae.
Andrew Wilson, spokesman for Fannie Mae, said he has heard of simple mistakes getting out of hand before.
Computers, he said, see things in black and white.
Homeowners should be able to get beyond them and fix the problem.
Anyone having difficulty getting help from a servicer can call Fannie Mae directly if they are among the many with a Fannie Mae loan.
Homeowners can reach Fannie Mae's Tampa Mortgage Help Center at (866) 442-8554.
As for Mudie, he's happy for another chance to keep his home.
But from now on, he said, he'll pay by mail.