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Hustled

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Recently, my husband and I were taken for 465 dollars. No, we weren't taken in a confidence scheme by a man with a mysterious scar named Lefty. We didn't buy a share in a hot new resort being built in Haiti. We didn't invest money with a man promising big returns named Vernie Manoff. Instead, we were swindled by our mortgage lender, who is probably your mortgage lender too: CitiMortgage.

It started in August. Ryan and I were thinking about the future and how we could start saving. We had just adopted a baby, and wanted to start thinking not just like adults, but parents. When the letter from Citi arrived, offering us a lower rate if we would take on a 20 year mortgage, for just a slightly higher monthly payment, we thought it was a sign. We jumped at the chance. After all, how could we lose? The letter called us "good long standing customers." It was like getting a financial hug.

I called the number. I talked to Kimberly. She applauded our responsible decision and congratulated us on the baby. She told me there would be a $465 application fee, but that it was "no big deal" because when the refinancing was finalized we would skip a month of payments. It would all be even-steven. We signed the papers, we paid the money, and we waited.

And nothing happened. Really, the silence was deafening.

Finally, at the start of this month, I got a call from a new loan officer, Vanessa. Everything was fine, she said, the underwriter was just finishing up. Then, she disappeared. Oh, she was virtually there, with an email account and a phone number where we could leave messages that were never returned, and a fax line that was always busy, but we couldn't actually communicate with her.

Today I called, and, instead of leaving a message, pressed "0" to talk to another agent. It was then I was told the refinance had been rejected, earlier this month actually, and that the application fee, you know, the one that was "no big deal" was non-refundable. I argued with the woman, and then I asked to speak to her supervisor and argued with him. I asked why we hadn't heard from them. He told me a letter had been sent out, and that he had no idea why we hadn't gotten it. I was amazed he was using the "lost in the mail" excuse, but I regrouped. I told him we were good customers. I told him about my conversations with Kimberly (who he claimed no longer worked there), I told him we would take our mortgage elsewhere. He didn't care about any of it. All he seemed to care about is that Citi got to keep my $465.

I don't really know what to do now. I filed a complaint with the FTC, and will file one with the Better Business Bureau. I do not expect to get my money back, or to take my mortgage elsewhere. After all, if my own lender does this to me what will happen elsewhere? Also, I kind have had all the fight knocked out of me. I guess that's what they were counting on.

Still, it would have been better if my loan officer had been named Lefty. At least it would have been a better story to tell.