Bamboozled: Broken promises

Even consumer advocates make mistakes.BB branding

The Bamboozled story about a man who didn’t get the gift cards he was promised when he signed up for Verizon’s FIOS service got Renee Hauserman’s attention. The story mentioned a December 2009 settlement over FIOS between Verizon, the state attorney general and the state Consumer Affairs Division. As part of the settlement, Verizon was to give $50 prepaid gift cards to the 1,160 consumers who complained to the state.

The Madison woman’s complaint, made in March 2009, would have made it 1,161.

“I was surprised that I had not been contacted by Verizon about the settlement since I assumed I was included in the over 1,000 customers who had submitted complaints,’’ Hauserman said. “I checked the settlement agreement posted online and didn’t find my name listed.’’

“So now what? Have I been Bamboozled by the folks who are supposed to be stopping the Bamboozling?’’

41310We called the Division of Consumer Affairs to find out what happened to Hauserman’s complaint.

Consumer Affairs did some investigating, and yes, Hauserman’s complaint was timely and she should have been on the list, said spokesman Jeff Lamm.

“She did file a complaint in time with the Division of Consumer Affairs and for some unknown reason, her name was inadvertently left off the list of affected consumers that the Division provided to Verizon,’’ Lamm said. “This is not something caused by Verizon.’’

Lamm said Consumer Affairs notified Verizon and gave it Hauserman’s information. She doesn’t need to take any action and she will receive her gift card from Verizon, Lamm said.

Hauserman was glad that Consumer Affairs owned up to the mistake and is making it right.

“I’m glad after all this time it’s done,’’ she said.


Last month, Bamboozled reported the story of Michael and Cheryl Spinella, the couple that was paying for two flood insurance policies on their Parsippany home.

For all the years they’ve been in the home, they had paid independently for flood insurance. When they refinanced, they showed proof of the policy and the lender was happy. Then the lender sold the mortgage to Chase, which increased the Spinella’s escrow payments to cover another flood insurance policy, despite proof that the initial policy was in good standing.

We learned that FEMA requires lenders who escrow for any kind of payment – property taxes, hazard insurance or flood insurance – must escrow for all of those payments, or none at all. Because Chase was escrowing for property taxes, it added the flood insurance policy, too. (Though they should have, the Spinella’s previous lenders never did.) The Spinellas decided they’d rather not escrow at all, but instead pay those bills separately. They notified Chase, and Chase sent them a check for the balance of their escrow account: $2,028.63.

“There was no explanation and nothing about the additional flood insurance premiums of more than $400 a month that we’ve been paying all these months,’’ said Michael Spinella, who still wants to see an accounting of the escrow funds.

Chase was still working with the insurance company to determine what excess premiums should be returned to the Spinellas. Turns out the answer is none.

The annual premium on the Spinella’s flood insurance policy was due in April 2010. Chase used the escrow monies to pay some $2,200 for the policy, even though the couple had already paid the policy out-of-pocket and in full for the year to come.

Yes, the insurance company was double-paid for the same policy.

Another question answered: Why did the couple pay such high amounts into escrow for the same policy? The couple’s mortgage anniversary date would be August, but the full year flood premium was due in April. The bank had to make up for lost time because it hadn’t been collecting for a full year.

We’ll let you know when they get the refund from their insurance company.


The Shaw family has been waiting for a check of their own.

When the Shaw family bought a new house, they made their first mortgage payment to Bank of America. Sometime after the closing, Bank of America sold the loan to Chase, which didn’t properly notify the Shaws because of an address mix-up. The Shaw’s first mortgage payment got lost in the shuffle.

After months, Bank of America finally found the missing mortgage payment, and it finally sent the payment to the Shaws. But not without problems.

We reported last month that the bank sent the payment to the wrong address, so Shaw didn’t receive it. Bank of America said it would resend the check to the correct address, and it did.

“Here’s the rub. They made it payable to me and my deceased first wife, who passed two years earlier and clearly had nothing to do with my Montville home purchase,’’ Matthew Shaw said. “It looks like we’re back to square one.’’

We called Bank of America again, and while the bank was unable to explain why the check was written to Shaw and his deceased wife – someone whose name was never on the mortgage – it promised to send another check.

Shaw received the second check – a correct one this time – and he will now forward it to Chase, which put the missing mortgage payment in a holding pattern while Bank of America looked. That should clear up the account for good.

Let’s hope that’s the end of that story. For real, this time.


Bamboozled has received a stunning amount of e-mail from people who need help. Let me address them all here:

To “Western Union” and other money transfer services: I’ll decline your offer to update my personal information for a service I’ve never used. I’ll take my chances, even if I risk losing the wads of money you’re holding on my behalf.

To all foreign-based attorneys: I don’t think I’d be an appropriate beard for your attempt to recover your millions of dollars, even for a healthy cut. Same to those of you who need my bank account so you can send me the millions of dollars I’ve inherited from my missing aunt/great-grandfather/fourth cousin once removed.

And to poor “Rosa,” and to the unfortunate “Julia Gulia” (any Wedding Singer fans out there?), both separately stuck in London because they were robbed of their pocketbooks, passports, money and credit cards: Please forgive me for not sending the $1,200 and $1,000 you requested. Try the embassy. They may have some handcuffs with your name on it.