Last month, the Bryski family of Marlton won an enormous victory against Key Bank.
Key Bank was the only holdout. Bryski’s father had co-signed the loans, and the bank maintained that he still had to pay them.
After years of asking the bank for relief, The Star-Ledger reported, Key finally decided to forgive the loans.
Bamboozled was glad to hear it.
After the story ran in The Star-Ledger, we received a note from Marie Greenhalgh of Upper Montclair.
“Our daughter Amanda Greenhalgh passed away suddenly in September 2010 at the age of 24,” Greenhalgh wrote in an e-mail. “The grief our family had to go through, and is still going through, is unbearable.”
Amanda graduated with a meteorology degree from Penn State University in 2008. Before her death, she had secured a job that paid $74,000 a year, and she was on time and current with all her student loan payments, her mother said.
But the student loans were not in Amanda’s name alone.
“My husband and his mother, Viola Greenhalgh, 90, co-signed Sallie Mae loans of $100,000 for our daughter’s education,” Marie Greenhalgh said. “My husband and I cannot afford to repay these loans in our present financial situation. We are in the process of selling our home in a short sale, meaning our mortgage is higher than the value of our home.”
She was underestimating. The Sallie Mae loans have a balance of nearly $120,000.
The Greenhalghs said the family had been trying without success to get relief from Sallie Mae.
Charles Greenhalgh, 65, said he’s tried to talk to Sallie Mae, but his calls are switched to a phone office in the Philippines “and they don’t know what I’m talking about.”
“We’ve kept the payments current, but it’s a trying effort,” said Charles Greenhalgh, who recently went back to work part time so they’d have enough money to pay the loans each month.
The Greenhalghs said they also contacted their legislators for help, to no avail.
After reading The Star-Ledger’s story saying Sallie Mae had forgiven the Byrski loans, the Greenhalghs shared their story with Bamboozled.
We asked Sallie Mae to review the family’s case.
In less than a week, we got some good news.
The Greenhalghs received a phone from Tim Hynes, a Sallie Mae senior VP.
“He’s writing the loan off. The whole thing. The guy had such a heart in talking to us,” said Charles Greenhalgh, his voice cracking with emotion. “He said, ‘I have three kids myself,’ and I said, ‘You should cherish every day with them.’ ”
We asked Sallie Mae for an official comment on its very compassionate decision.
“This is a tragic circumstance that no parent can fathom when investing in a child’s education, and we have reached out to the family with assistance,” a spokeswoman said.
It’s nice to know there are those out there still willing to do the right thing. Thank you to Tim Hynes and Sallie Mae.
The Bamboozled e-mail box was bursting with comments about Syed Ali, the man who missed bidding farewell to his ailing mother — and his mother’s funeral in India — because officials at Wells Fargo wouldn’t give him access to his safety deposit box to retrieve his passport.
The bank wanted to see a photo ID, but Ali said his only photo ID was his passport, which was inside the box.
Many readers couldn’t believe that Ali didn’t have a driver’s license. Others suggested he visit the Motor Vehicle Commission to get a non-driver’s photo ID.
Sure, Ali could have visited MVC and applied for a non-driver’s photo ID, but without his passport, he probably wouldn’t have been able to provide the documents needed to pass the “6 Point ID Verification.” (You can learn more about how to get a non-driver’s photo ID at state.nj.us/mvc.)
Other readers suggested he get a photo ID from his county.
Ali lives in Hudson County, which no longer offers county photo IDs.
Some other counties do, but their requirements wouldn’t have worked for Ali. Some only offer the IDs to citizens, and Ali is here on a visa. Other counties ask for a combination of other forms of identification, including yes, a driver’s license or a passport.
Which Ali couldn’t access.
Sure, it makes sense and is often necessary to have a photo ID, but Ali wouldn’t have been able to get one in time so see his dying mother.
One reader wrote with a tale of his own mother, 78, who also had trouble with Wells Fargo because she doesn’t have a driver’s license.
He said she went to a bank branch to withdraw $200 from her IRA, which she has done once a year for the past eight years. The bank official said she couldn’t make the withdrawal without her driver’s license or passport — a change from previous protocol.
“The only photo ID she had was a township senior citizen card, which he would not accept,” the reader said. “She also had Social Security, Medicare, Horizon and credit cards with her.”
Not good enough. The bank rep said she should go to MVC to get a non-driver’s license photo ID, the reader said, which meant tracking down satisfactory documents for the six points of identification, “going to MVC, waiting 1.5 hours, and pay the fee to get the photo ID — just so she can get her money,” he said.
She got her ID and when she returned to Wells Fargo, she transferred the rest of her IRA to another financial institution, ending 55 years of banking with Wells’ many predecessors.
“Ironically, the day before she went to Wells to close the IRA, she got a check in the mail from Wells Fargo for the minimum distribution of the IRA that she has to take every year,” he said. “No photo ID was required for that check.”
Back to Ali. Even though he missed his mother’s funeral, he has solidified plans to go back to India in two weeks to see family and make arrangements for a disabled brother who lived with his mom.
“I just want to do what I can for my family,” Ali said.