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Computer mishap shoves newlyweds into foreclosure

A computer mishap shoved a newlywed couple into foreclosure on their first mortgage payment.

October 22, 2010 10:23:14 PM PDT
Here is a different sort of foreclosure story -- a newly married Bay Area couple nearly lost their first home, even though they made their payments on time.

This story shows just how jittery banks are in the middle of this prolonged foreclosure crisis. The couple made their very first mortgage payment, but something went terribly wrong. It wasn't their fault but right off the bat, the bank socked them with the dreaded word -- foreclosure.

Mark and Brooke Barnum were married last year, bought their first home this year, and recently made their very first home mortgage payment.

"I was exceptionally careful about making sure I had the account number right, the P.O. box number right," said Mark.

Things were going along smoothly -- or so it seemed -- until a few weeks later. Mark received a shocking call from the collections department of his mortgage lender, Wells Fargo Bank.

"That we hadn't made our first payment and they were concerned," said Mark.

But how could that be? Mark did pay, using his Chase Bank online bill-pay account. So right away Mark printed out a "proof of payment" sheet and marched down to Wells Fargo, but the bank insisted it never received that payment. So Mark went to Chase, and Chase said indeed, the payment was sent to Wells Fargo.

"'What do you mean?' Chase doesn't have the money, they can't even draw back the funds because they say 'you've got it,' and Wells Fargo says 'nope,'" said Mark.

Mark's money had disappeared and neither bank could say where it went. Even worse, Wells Fargo said the Barnums in default on their loan and the bank could foreclose on their new home, if they didn't pay up.

"I was receiving text messages from collections, phone calls from collections at first they were talking about big late fees, and of course ultimately there's you know taking back the house," said Mark.

This all happened on the very first payment of his very first home, which didn't make a very good impression on Mark's new in-laws. His father-in-law had co-signed on the loan and he was getting collection calls too.

"So here I am thinking OK, I've just married his daughter, I'm the one at this point who's supposed to be taking care of this mortgage payment and obviously it looks like I can't do it," said Mark.

Mark couldn't get answers and another payment was due. That's when he called 7 On Your Side. We contacted the two banks. Within hours, Chase tracked down Mark's missing payment.

It turns out, it was sent to the wrong company. An insurance firm called Agia, which has nothing to do with Barnums.

"From that point on, all the notices and everything stopped," said Mark.

Immediately, Wells Fargo Bank stopped all proceedings against the Barnums. Chase bank put $2,400 into Mark's account and he used it to pay his mortgage.

Chase said the loan payment was sent to the wrong company because Mark had entered incorrect information on his bill pay account. However Chase would not say what he had typed in error.

Mark says he checked his payment many times and still can't find any mistake, but for now he is relieved his house is safe.

"Somebody was looking out for me. So 7 On Your Side totally saved us. I still smiling, just thinking about it is amazing," said Mark.

Chase bank says it was not at fault for misdirecting the funds so it's not clear what went wrong. However, the Barnums are not taking any chances. They are delivering house payments directly to their mortgage lender from now on.


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