Utah Company's 'Mortgage Scam'

house home repair mortgage insurance homeowner CBS/AP

The Salt Lake City headquarters of the big mortgage company, Fairbanks Capital, seems almost under siege, with accusations the company has been cheating some of America's most vulnerable homeowners.

Fairbanks is the dominant company handling mortgages for people with less-than-perfect credit records, such as Jill Potts, a homebuyer in Santa Cruz, California.

"It was a huge purchase, my first purchase, my first home," explained Potts.
Potts said she has never been late with a payment. But when her mortgage statement shows up each month, so do extra charges from Fairbanks.

When she refuses to pay the extra fees, Fairbanks adds negative marks to her credit report and threatens her with foreclosure.

One letters says: "Demand letter. You can lose your house."

Some 550,000 Americans send their mortgage checks to Fairbanks every month. But now, more and more of those borrowers are complaining they're victims of what some call mortgage fraud.

In Appleton, Wisconsin, Fairbanks hounded homeowner Tabatha Blazer, threatening foreclosure while refusing to credit thousands of dollars in payments.

"I didn't understand what was going on and I thought it was all my fault," says Blazer.

In Pompano Beach, Fla., Joe Concannon was repeatedly charged for house insurance he didn't need.

"They're billing us for insurance that we already have, which we told them we already have," said Concannon.

Fairbanks charged Jill Potts hundreds of dollars for house insurance, even though she contacted them by phone, fax and certified mail telling them she was already insured.

"I was pulling my hair out, going, 'You have got to help me.'" But Potts said the company would not acknowledge that she already had homeowners insurance.

The reason is revealed in a legal declaration by a former Fairbanks employee: "It was Fairbanks' practice to ignore such correspondence and leave the insurance on the account."

But now, with two federal investigations underway and lawsuits piling up, Fairbanks' biggest shareholder, PMI Capital in California, promises a cleanup - beginning with the removal of Fairbanks senior management.

When Brad Shuster, president of PMI Capital, was asked if he believed that Fairbanks management was either incompetent or running a scheme, he responded, "We now believe that the seriousness of the number of customer complaints suggests that the old approach has not been adequate."

But Jill Potts was still getting nowhere, so CBS Correspondent John Blackstone delivered her insurance documents directly to the man leading the Fairbanks cleanup.

Two days later, Fairbanks contacted Potts saying the extra charges will be removed. She says she'll believe that only when she sees her next statement.

  • Justine Blau

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