Double mortgage payment causes chaos for family

March 19, 2010 7:33:06 PM PDT
Many people have trouble these days keeping-up with making even one house payment. But what if you had to pay twice in one day?

That was not supposed to happen but it did. A tiny mistake sucked way too much money out of a family's bank account and it had a disastrous ripple effect.

Patt Ferraro and her family go to great lengths to stay within a tight budget. She even makes some of their clothes by hand and the family does without frills like premium cable and dinner out so they have enough to cover the bills.

But one day, a simple error threw everything into chaos.

"I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He said 'oh my God,'" she said.

Patt's husband, Rocky, went on the Bank of America website to pay the mortgage. But when he clicked send, an error message popped up.

"Process failed, your payment did not go through. So not wanting to be late, he called Bank of America and did it over the phone," Patt said.

It all seemed fine until they checked their bank statement, and found out both payments had gone through -- over the phone and online -- no error after all.

"OK now what do we do? That's a house payment, that's a lot of money," Patt said.

A lot indeed -- $1,478 was deducted twice from their checking account at Wells Fargo Bank. The double payment not only drained all their funds, but left the account with a negative balance of $956.

The couple called Bank of America right away and the bank promised to refund the extra payment within 48 hours. But days went by, then weeks and still no refund.

"We couldn't make our bills, our checks were bouncing, the car, the gas, the Visa bills, groceries," Patt said.

Each time a check bounced, they were hit with a $35 overdraft fee. It added up to $490 worth of fees in all. The family tightened their belts even more.

"Not going to movies, trying to stay home as much as possible. We are just being very frugal with the grocery shopping," Patt said.

Bank of America later requested proof of the double payment. The Ferraros sent their checking account statement but still no reply, no money and only frustration.

"It's heartbreaking. I'm sorry, it just bothers me so much," Patt said. "Especially times are tough now and we watch every penny. And now Bank of America turns around and very nonchalantly takes two house payments."

Weeks later, Bank of America said it would simply apply the extra payment to the next month's mortgage, and pay for the overdraft fees.

However, that money never came and that's when Patt called 7 On Your Side.

"He's always helping everybody, well help me, so come on Michael get with the shtick," Pat said.

7 On Your Side contacted Bank of America and the bank promised a quick refund and said: "Bank of America apologizes for the Ferraro's experience with our website. We are expediting the refund in overdraft fees that they have encountered to date."

That was a big relief to Patt.

"If anything like this happens again, oh please God never, I know who to e-mail -- Michael Finney," she said.

Following our inquiry, Bank of America said it is looking into why the duplicate payment was not refunded immediately. The bank said a refund should have been prompt and the bank is examining its procedures.


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