Bamboozled: Hounded homeowner’s mortgage payment found

Finally, Bank of America found the payment.BB branding

Last month we featured Matthew Shaw, a homeowner who was being dogged by collection calls about his mortgage.

Shaw took out a Bank of America mortgage for a July, 2009 home purchase. He sent his first mortgage payment to Bank of America, and the lender cashed the check. Then Bank of America sold Shaw’s mortgage to Chase, and Shaw made all subsequent payments to Chase on time and in full. But Chase said it had no record of Shaw’s first payment, which was made to Bank of America. Before long, Shaw was getting collections calls from Chase, which said he was delinquent.

Shaw showed Chase the cancelled check and lots of other paperwork, but the lender insisted Shaw owed the money. Calls to Bank of America didn’t help, either. It couldn’t find record of the payment despite the cancelled check.

Until Bamboozled got involved.

Chase stopped the collections calls and put a hold on this missing payment until Bank of America could find it.

32310It’s now more than two months since we first contacted Bank of America about this missing mortgage payment, and finally, it was found, a Bank of America spokeswoman told Bamboozled an email.

‘‘We apologize to Mr. Shaw but we were unable to research his missing payment until we received the relevant information to locate the payment. We have received that information and we are immediately issuing a check to him,’’ it said.

Until the bank received the relevant information? Seriously? Shaw had faxed the “relevant information” several times, including copies of the cancelled check, and Bamboozled gave the bank Shaw’s mortgage account number and other “relevant information,” too.

We asked Bank of America several times to explain why the payment was lost in the first place, but it never answered the question, saying instead it had not been given the information it needed to track it down.

Shaw is glad the payment has been found, but he’s angry, too.

‘‘My initial feeling was instant relief that this odyssey is finally over and there will be no more collection calls and threatening letters,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘To date, we’ve not received a single answer about how everything could get this screwed up.’’

Story over? Not quite yet. Bank of America said it sent the check, but Shaw didn’t receive it. Turns out it was mailed to Shaw’s previous address in another town, the address where Shaw lived before he took out the mortgage with Bank of America.

‘‘I would have expected them to use the address on the property for which they loaned me more than $400,000 back in July,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘You couldn’t make this stuff up.’’

Amen, brother. We’ll let you know when the check actually gets to Shaw.


Bamboozled has been following the EPPICard, a state-sanctioned debit card given to the recipients of some government benefits. We’ve covered fraud complaints by EPPICard users, both in New Jersey and in other states, and we’ve helped cardholders get their money back.

Along the way, we’ve learned about the extremely high use fees EPPICard cardholders are subject to, such having only one free ATM withdrawal per month and charges of 40 cents a pop to check account balances. (The first two balance checks are free.)

We asked the state about its contracts with Affiliated Computer Services, or ACS, the company that processes EPPICard transactions. Turns out EPPICard isn’t the only service provided by ACS to the state.

Exactly how big a business is New Jersey for ACS? In 2009, ACS was paid:

• $3,877,431 for EPPICard services for child support payment processing.

• $5,227,765 for electronic benefits transfers for the Department of Human Services (DHS)

• $24,669,999 for Medicaid managed care programs, and

• $389,460 for “billing and related services” for the DMV Insurance Surcharge System.

That’s more than $34 million in total paid to ACS in 2009 alone. A pretty penny, indeed.

Okay New Jersey, we’re asking again. You’ve got some clout with ACS, and we imagine it would like to keep New Jersey as a client. Use the leverage of all these contracts and renegotiate.

When are you going to get your citizens a better deal?

‘‘ACS has a number of contracts with the state of New Jersey and the performance of those contracts is constantly under review,’’ said Treasury spokesman Andrew Pratt. ‘‘At this moment we are looking at ways to provide better value both for the taxpayers and the clients of state agencies.’’

We’re waiting.


Earlier this month, we told the story of Michael Spyrka, who paid $16,000 for an alleged William Mason Brown painting at a charity auction for Montclair Kimberley Academy. When Spyrka tried to sell the painting at Christie’s, the auction house was unable to authenticate the painting.

Bamboozled offered some guidance for those of you who may someday buy a piece at a charity auction, but we excluded one important point, brought to our attention by reader Virginia Faulkner, proprietor of Old Book Shop in Morristown. She said she’s a frequent buyer of antique and rare books, and she said it’s important for the buyer to understand the terms of sale.

‘‘A purchase at auction is a contract, and not reading the terms of sale is the same as not reading a contract before signing it,’’ she wrote in an email. ‘‘I was at Swann Galleries in NYC this morning looking at books that will be auctioned Thursday — their terms of sale take up three pages of fine print.’’

The terms of sale may give a deadline for authenticating a piece after it’s purchased. Terrific point, and thanks for bringing it to our attention.