Some relief for victims of foreclosures

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - Some Americans wronged by foreclosure could be due some money. However, they'll have to move fast.

Seventy-four-year-old Dorothy Patton raised her seven children in a south Los Angeles house.

"I wanted to live and enjoy my home," she said. "And then when I get ready to enjoy, it's taken away."

She was living alone after her husband died in 2007. She said that's when Bank of America approached her with a new mortgage and a $110,000 home equity line of credit. She didn't understand her payments would jump $1,200 a month.

Patton and her bank could not work out a loan modification. She lost her home to foreclosure.

"I was cheated," she said. "I was cheated out of my home."

Patton is applying to the federal Independent Foreclosure Review program. The government ordered 14 big banks to take part in the program after it was discovered they improperly processed foreclosure paperwork or made other misrepresentations about mortgage terms. Harmed homeowners can be compensated up to $125,000.

But critics like New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez complain the banks control the review process.

"Who they choose are very often lawyers and consultants who have worked with the bank before," said Menendez. "And so it's a little bit of the fox watching the chicken coop."

The Office of the Comptroller, which oversees the program, told us "independence has been a priority."

Others complain that few people even know about the program. Only 10 percent of the 4.4-million eligible homeowners have enrolled.

West Angeles Community Development Corporation held one of nine workshops around the country this month where people like Dorothy Patton signed up.

"We know that there are thousands more -- hundreds of thousands more out there," said Tunua Thrash of West Angeles Community Development Corporation, "not only in Los Angeles, but certainly in California and around the country."

"I'm hoping and praying that it will help," said Patton. "There are so many of us out there."

The deadline to sign up has been pushed back three times. With the response so low, critics say it should be pushed back again.

  • Bill Whitaker

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