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6 Unbelievable Ways the Big Banks Are Scamming You

Five years since the crash, the big banks continue to screw over their customers.

It is going on five years since the financial crash and three years since President Obama signed the meager Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the big banks are still scamming and conning and ripping off their customers. What a huge surprise.

After the financial crash, we heard about a laundry list of abuses and frauds that ranged from small things, like hidden fees, to pushing minorities into subprime loans and then switching them into more expensive mortgages at signing time, to huge things like selling trillions of dollars in complicated CDO schemes and making bets on derivatives of derivatives without having the reserves to pay off what they owed when the bets went bad.

Of course, no one at the top was prosecuted and the banks were allowed to settle a host of charges (which meant that their shareholders, not the executives who made the decisions, paid the fines). The bad behavior gave these giants a competitive advantage, driving out what good companies there were. So the costly and destructive bad behavior, schemes, cons and scams continue. 

1. Falsifying Paperwork, Blitzing, Lying About Payments to Force Homeowners Into Foreclosure

This week, ProPublica released a report detailing the shocking ways that Bank of America has been pushing homeowners into foreclosure. Employees lied about documentation and falsified paperwork to force families out of their homes when these customers thought they were getting a loan modification under the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). To make matters worse, the bank gave bonuses to employees who were able to reach monthly quotas of people they forced into foreclosure.

According to a lawsuit against Bank of America, the bank used “blitzing” twice a month to deny HAMP applications even when the homeowner had fully complied with the program’s requirements; it gave employees $500 bonuses each month they forced 10 or more homeowners into foreclosure; it intentionally ignored applications for 30 days, then declared them late and forced homeowners to reapply; it closed applications even when they knew the homeowner had met all criteria; and it canceled loan modifications because of “late payments” when the bank’s records shows that payments had been made on time.

Of course, as long as the government refuses to prosecute banks and bankers for violating laws, and instead negotiating “settlements”  that require bank shareholders to pay fines, bankers will see no reason to stop this kind of activity.

2. Bank Protection “Service” Puts Consumers at “Greater Risk Of Harm”

Last week  a report from the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that the big banks are still scamming their customers with ridiculous fees that are hugely profitable for the big banks.

Three years ago the government required banks to ask their customers if it is okay (this is called “opt-in”) before they charge them for “overdraft protection” service. CFRB has been studying how this is working out, and its report shows that customers who do not opt-in to this heavily marketed “protection” service pay much, much less in fees than those who do. In other words, agreeing to use the “protection” actually puts you at a much greater risk of incurring expenses than those who are not “protected.”

According to  a McClatchy News report on a call with CFPB director Richard Cordray to discuss the report, Cordray said, "What is marketed as overdraft protection can, in some instances, put consumers at greater risk of harm.”

How much risk? People who are “heavy overdrafters” but still opt out of this service save on average more than $900 a year. But it isn’t just heavy overdrafters who are saving. According to the CFPB report “… the reduction in fees for those who did not opt in was $347 greater, on average, than for those who did opt in.” People who opt in are also more likely to lose their bank accounts, with the bank “involuntarily” closing it. 

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