Do We Need An Attorney? (Mortgage Lender 1098 Snafu)

Background: We purchased a home in December 2004. Both the 1st and 2nd notes were held by the same lender. Said lender sold our 2nd to another bank in October 2005.

We received correspondence from Bank #1 that there was an error on the 1098 from our 2nd mortgage and a corrected one would be sent out shortly. I got so busy with work and life and such that I let February and March slip by without following up on the fact that we hadn’t yet received the corrected form.

A couple of weeks before the tax filing deadline I phoned the bank to inquire as to the whereabouts of our missing 1098. The person asked me for some basic identifying information, such as verifying my zip code and my husband’s date of birth (he’s the primary on the loan) and said he’d FAX a copy to me right away.

Two days go by and no fax, so I call again. The woman reassures me that the request has been processed but it takes several days for them to be pulled from the records department, so please give them some time.

On Thursday, April 13th I call yet again. This time the representative tells me that I had been misinformed – they would never fax a document of that nature due to their strict privacy policies, it had to be mailed to the address on file. She then inquired as to whether either of the other representatives I had spoken with had at least told me the corrected amount. No, they had not. So she gave me the amount and apologized for the miscommunications. I suggested that she speak with her supervisor regarding the need to retrain the employees who were giving out false information to clients, thanked her for her assistance and hung up.

Problem: Day before yesterday I received 2 items; a FAX of our 1098, albeit not the corrected one! and a manually created “corrected” 1098 by standard mail with a very nice and apologetic note for the poor treatment I had received.

However, not only did they violate their own privacy policy by faxing me a copy of the 1098, but the one they mailed to me wasn’t ours! It belongs to some guy in Alexandria, Virginia, whose home address, social security number and Home Equity Line of Credit account number I am now privy to! So if I got his, who got ours!?!?

I brought the letter and the incorrect 1098 to work yesterday and tried to call the bank. It’s kindof superfluous information, but just to illustrate what complete morons these people are, the phone number that they provided in the body of the letter was not a working number. Once I looked up the correct phone number, now I needed my 16-digit account number to get through their automated system. Well guess what – the account number they’d referenced in the correspondence was also incorrect, as it only had 8 digits. And there was no apparent way to get around their stupid system without entering a number, so on a whim, I punched in Mr. Alexandria VA’s number, verified his zip code and voila, I’m in!

The person I spoke with was dumbfounded that I was not, in fact, Mr. Alexandria VA and had no clue what to say. I had asked him to put me through to the head of their security department, but instead he put me on hold for 10 minutes waiting for his supervisor. At that point he said it would probably be a significant wait and that he would take my phone number and have his manager call me, with a guaranteed return call time of 30 minutes. I still haven’t gotten that return call yet.

I’m furious and also quite concerned. Somebody likely has my husband’s social security number, our home address and our HELOC account number. I tried to find a phone listing for Mr. Alexandria VA to contact him directly and see if it was as straightforward as just mixing our 2 documents up when they were stuffing envelopes, but he’s not listed anywhere – even Googling his name returns zero hits (not just no “relevant” hits, but no hits on that name at all).

So what recourse do we have? What steps should we take and how should we pursue this? How do we go about protecting our identity now that there’s a strong likelihood that some stranger has our personal identifying information? Do we need, or should we hire an attorney to deal with the bank? Any advice would be much appreciated!

(Mods: We couldn’t decide if this was a GQ or an IMHO – please move as appropriate. Thanks!)

I don’t know whether you need a lawyer, but you and your husband should contact each of the three credit bureaus and put notices on your files requiring that you be contacted before any new credit is extended in your names.

Are these banks with local branches? If bank 2 is (that’s the problematic one, right?), you might just want to go downthere and talk to them. If only bank 1 is, you could probably go down there and bitch at them. At the very least you might be able to get a phone number out of them that will get you in touch with someone at bank 2 that can actually help you.

Thanks, Otto, that’s great advice. I’ve got my husband on the phone right now to one of the agencies about placing a Fraud Alert on our account.

Joey P, the problem bank is bank #1 in relation to our 2nd mortgage. They are, indeed, local (well, as “local” as Pasadena, CA is to Redondo Beach, CA, but yes, we could get there by car in about an hour). I’m not sure what going in there to talk to them would accomplish, though, if we don’t know what our legal rights are in this situation, which is why I’m thinking we might need legal counsel.

You’re probably right. Going down there might not be worth it for a two hour round trip. I was thinking that if it was just a few minutes away it might be worth it to go and talk to a person, or raise a stink with one of the higher ups at the bank.

What follows isn’t legal advice, and I’m not your lawyer. Otto’s right about the fraud alerts. If you used a mortgage broker to get these mortgages, it might be worth calling him to see if he has any contacts you can exploit. If you think you want to contact a lawyer, consider calling the Beverly Hills Bar Association lawyer referral service. The intake call is free, and if they do refer you to an attorney, it’s $25 for a half hour consultation.

It may be worth trying one more phone call before contacting a lawyer.

You call the bank and do what’s necessary to get a person on the line. In a calm voice you state: “I have a very serious problem due to some recent incorrect actions by your bank. Please tell me how I can get a responsible person on the phone immediately to help me resolve this, or whether I should engage an attorney to assist me.”

If they offer to put you on hold or call you back, say “I’m willing to wait a short time. But in my previous attempts to resolve this matter I was not contacted as promised. So if I’m not in touch with a responsible person within 3 minutes, I’ll take it to mean that you feel I should deal through an attorney.”

If the responsible person does come on the line, you do well to remain very calm, but to make it clear you believe that either the issue is given the highest possible priority by the bank, or you’ll feel forced to retain a lawyer.

Campion, I hate the mortgage broker we used – he was an incompetent jerk who ripped us off, so I wouldn’t trust a referral from him if all I had to lose was a penny, so that’s out. I do have resources to find a good attorney here, but I do appreciate the link you provided, it just may come in handy at some point anyway. And we do now have a Fraud Alert with the credit reporting agencies, which will now make it a pain in the ass for us to get credit when we want it, which we actually do – we’ve been meaning to apply for a Visa card through SAS Airlines so we can earn points towards travel for our annual trips to Denmark. That’s right out now. <grumble>

Xema, anyone who knows me can attest that I’ll have no problem being firm with these people, nor will I hesitate to threaten bringing in an attorney. The problem I have is that I don’t know what I’d threaten them with an attorney for. “Listen Mr. Banker, this is a serious breach of our privacy and I plan on contacting an attorney and suing you for. . .” what, exactly? What can I force them to do to rectify this major error besides just apologize profusely? That’s why I started this in GQ instead of IMHO, because I was hoping to get some concrete answers about what specific laws these yutzes might’ve broken, if any, and what specifically they can be forced to do to remedy this problem. And if there’s no legal recourse, they’ll certainly pay the price when we refinance and pull more than half a million dollars of loans out of their bank!

Thanks for the advice so far, guys. We really appreciate it!

Just giving this one bump in case any of the weekday folks might have an answer. Thanks!

Consider complaining to the bank’s regulators before retaining an attorney. I don’t know how often it helps, but in theory the bank examiner could wind up asking questions about your case during their next review. Heck, I’d pay to be in the room during that discussion.

Thank you, Mr. Slant. I’ve learned that this bank is regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision, and I’ve printed their complaint procedures and plan to follow them.

Still no phone call from the bank regarding this mess. I am so angry right now I could spit. Does anyone know if having a Fraud Alert on our credit report could have any kind of detrimental effect on us getting refinancing?

Have you checked They usually have listings that google doesn’t have. At this point, they may have just printed the wrong 1098 for you, they may not have mixed them up.

Along with all the complaining, I would also contact Mr Alexandria, Virginia. Tell him who you are. Explain to him what has taken place. Read to him his SS number and other important data. Suggest to him what nefarious things you could attempt. In short, get him pissed off at the bank as well.

Here is a chart that explains which agency to complain to.

I would start there.

Here is a list of agencies that have enforcement jurisdiction over the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act:

Here is a little bit on California’s financial privacy laws.

If you complain, you might get some satisfaction. There is no private right of action under the act, but you might have rights under some other laws.

You could contact the folks that *Campion ** mentioned. (Hey, it’s cheap, right?) or you could try Ask Free Legal Advice & Questions by Attorneys LawGuru where an attorney licensed in your state might give you some free advice.

I’m not sure you will get much help from a lawyer on this one right now. But by all means, call one. I’d much rather have you waste a few minutes on the phone or in a lawyer’s office than miss out on some remedy because you relied on advice on a message board.

That said, the cat’s already out of the bag, so to speak–if the info is out there, you can’t really take it back. You already did the fraud alert. I’m not so sure that was the best idea, but it’s definitely a judgment call. Anyway, that’s already done.

You haven’t suffered any actual damages. Yet. :frowning: :confused: :smiley: And I hope you don’t. So a lawsuit might be premature. But a lawyer in your jurisdiction would know better than anyone here.

Hope this helps.

On preview.

It shouldn’t. It just requires new creditors to take reasonable steps to verify your identity, like calling whatever telephone number is on the alert or checking your identification.

*I don’t have any interest in this site. I am registered on there, and occasionally (ok–rarely) answer questions there. When I do, I do so for free, in a jurisdiction in which I am licensed as an attorney, and (although it is possible to do so) I do not accept clients from there.

Yep, checked And and I even did it the old fashioned way and phoned 411 – no listing. No Mr. Alexandria, no First Initial Alexandria, no Any First Name Alexandria, No Alexandria in Surrounding Areas. Our only recourse in contacting him seems to be to send him a letter since we have his address.

And although we’d like to hope the bank simply didn’t prepare our 1098 at all, it seems highly unlikely that they’d go to the trouble of writing correspondence but not complete the form they said they were enclosing. And it wasn’t printed, it was manually created, meaning, an actual person sat with a pen and filled in the blanks with ink (at least on the one I have for Mr. Alexandria, and so they say they did for ours; “We are enclosing a manually corrected 1098. . .”).

vetbridge, we intend to copy him on all the correspondence we send, as well as sending a personal note so that he isn’t wondering who on earth has his SS number and reassuring him that we have no intention of misusing his personal information. But you’re right – I’d love it if he gave them holy hell, too!

Missed your post on preview, Gfactor. Thank you for your reply. I looked up this particular bank on the National Information Center’s website, which returned the result: “Primary Federal Regulator: OTS”. The “Institution Type” is Savings & Loan Association, but in following your links I see that there is also a regulatory agency for Mortgage Bankers Association of America – would they possibly fall under that “jurisdiction” as well?

Is there a particular reason you’re not sure placing the Fraud Alert was the best idea? What possible repercussions could that have, beyond just making them go through a few extra hoops before issuing credit in our name?

Thanks very much for your help!

MBAA is a trade group–not a regulator (I know, it was confusing in the linked material). If you got to their site, you can find the state agency that regulates mortgage bankers and mortgage brokers in every state. That’s all.

That’s pretty much it. And in the case of a mortgage, the Patriot Act requires lenders to check your identification anyway, and of course the notary will want to see the ID again at closing, so it really doesn’t hurt that much.

I’m an in-house lawyer at a mortgage company. Fraud alerts don’t phase us.

So that’s pretty much it. But it made you worry about it. And your identity hasn’t been stolen. So far, some documents with private financial information may have been sent to the wrong address. You just received similar information and aren’t abusing it. There’s no reason to assume that the person who got yours (if it was even really sent).

Still I understand your frustration. The bank has some serious internal problems from the sound of it. And their customer service sucks. I’m sorry.