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Scammed by Countrywide? How to Get Your Check

More than a year after the Federal Trade Commission entered into a record $108 million fine against Countrywide Financial Corp. for scamming borrowers out of millions through the imposition of bogus and inflated loan fees, the harmed consumers will start receiving their checks.

"Checks will be mailed tomorrow," said FTC spokesman Frank Dorman.

If you're among the 707 individuals who are expected to get refunds of $5,000 or more, you should have been personally contacted and will receive your check by certified mail, Dorman added. The remaining 449,4700 victims will get checks via regular mail at the last known address the agency has on file.

The FTC says it believes it has identified all of the victims of Countrywide's overcharging and has checked to see if anyone has moved in the past six months. But if you moved prior to that point, you may want to contact the program administrator at 1-888-230-3196. You can also call the administrator if you think you're due a check, but don't receive it within the next week.

Those who get checks are asked to cash them before September 19th.

The checks are the result of an investigation that found widespread overcharging of consumers whose loans were in default. Consumers with loans that were issued or administered by Countrywide Financial between 2005 and 2008, were charged excessive fees for property inspections, lawn mowing and other services meant to protect the lender's interest in the property, according to the FTC. Lenders are able to charge borrowers to maintain properties. But Countrywide, which was purchased by Bank of America in 2008, would hire vendors to do the work through subsidiaries, charging massive mark-ups along the way that could often double the cost to the homeowner.

Countrywide also loaded fees on the accounts of property owners who were in bankruptcy proceedings, levying unsupported claims for escrow, title searches and trustee accounts.

"It's astonishing that a single company could be responsible for overcharging more than 450,000 homeowners," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "Countrywide's unconscionable behavior harmed American consumers on a massive scale."

The FTC also reminded consumers that there is no fee to receive your check. If you're contacted by someone claiming they can get you a Countrywide refund in exchange for an up-front fee, they're a opportunistic scammer, not a representative of the government.

For more information about the settlement, you can check out Ilyce Glink's report here, or the the FTC's settlement web page.

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