Wells Fargo in downtown Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
**FILE** Wells Fargo in downtown Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

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Wells Fargo officials said the bank remains committed to providing the financial access, guidance, and support customers need to focus on theirs and their loved ones’ well-being.

Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Wells Fargo has suspended residential property foreclosure sales, evictions, and involuntary automobile repossessions.

On a case-by-case basis, the bank offers fee waivers, payment deferrals, and other expanded assistance for a credit card, auto, mortgage, small business, and personal lending customers who contact Wells Fargo.

“We have created many options for customers to engage with us,” said Carmen Bell, head of Customer Contact at Wells Fargo Home Lending.

Carmen Bell
Carmen Bell

“When COVID hit, we recognized the significant potential impact to consumers, we quickly expanded our options to engage,” Bell stated.

The engagement includes creating an easy-to-understand process within Wells Fargo online banking.

“In a prevalent way when you log onto online banking you see an option asking if you need payment relief,” Bell said. “Customers are able to review if payment relief is right for them and have the ability to receive initial 3 months payment suspension online, without having to wait to speak to a Wells Fargo employee.

Customers then receive a confirmation letter in the mail outlining the forbearance. If Wells Fargo has a valid email address, customers will receive a confirmation online.

“We want to provide customers the ability to interact with us how, where and when they choose and so many customers in today’s environment choose to interact digitally,” Bell said.

“When COVID first hit, there was so much uncertainty, customers wanted immediate assurance so that they had peace of mind. We wanted them to be assured that their mortgage payment would be okay until they knew more out their situation,” she said.

For homeowners fearful of the forbearance process or afraid of late mortgage payments, Bell said it’s crucial they reach out to Wells Fargo or respond through our digital options as early as possible.

“Our goal is to help customers through challenging times and help them maintain homeownership. We do the proactive outbound calling. It’s not a collections type of call; it’s a check-in to see how we can assist them and if COVID has impacted them. We’re here to help you,” Bell noted.

“Some are just fearful of the process, and we try to relieve that fear by having a conversation with them whether that is digital or verbal,” she said.

Many customers weren’t initially sure, how the pandemic, and government officials began might affect them publicly encouraging everyone to call their mortgage provider, Bell said.

“In June, we will be reaching out to customers who received initial 3 months of forbearance that will be expiring to provide them options to extend forbearance additional 3 months if they still need more time to recover or if they are ready to resume making payments we will provide them options to make up the suspended payments. Bell said Customers will have options based on their specific investor on their loan which They may have the option to do a repayment plan, so taking the three months of missed payments and adding them to your next 3 to 6 months of payments.”

However, Bell added that many might not choose that option because the pandemic has left many in a financial bind.

She said Wells Fargo would follow specific investor guidelines and their own portfolio to make the repayment process easier when customers are ready to resume payments.

Some guidelines will extend the term of the loan by the three months of the forbearance, while others will do a partial claim in which the missed payments are added to the end of the loan as a balloon payment.

“An example of a partial claim would be your payment was $1,000 per month. You’ll then have $3,000 placed in a non-interest bearing account that will be due at the end of your mortgage, such as if you pay off your mortgage or refinance,” Bell said.

Wells Fargo is aware that fraud continues to be a concern for most.

“There is, unfortunately, a lot of fraud in general. I haven’t personally seen any yet in this space although just over the weekend I was out to dinner with a friend who said she got an email from her bank asking her to verify all of her account information. She didn’t respond because she thought it odd that the bank would not have her information anyway. I advised her never to respond to those, always call or log in to your secure account,” Bell said.

“We ask customers to be on the lookout for suspicious email or text messages that try to convince you as a consumer to share sensitive information such as username and password or someone who may have impersonated company security or a government agency. We will never ask personal information or login credentials through email or text,” she said.

“We also have a <a href=”https://stories.wf.com/beware-coronavirus-phishing-scams/” target=”blank”>Wells Fargo Stories piece</a> that provides more information about coronavirus fishing scams. I would also just add that a consumer’s best avenue is always to engage with us directly or through an approved counselor such as all of the HUD counselors versus thinking that someone who’ll reach out to them will be more of a help than their servicer would.”


What Is Forbearance?

Forbearance is a temporary postponement of mortgage payments. It is a form of repayment relief granted by the lender or creditor in lieu of forcing a property into foreclosure. Loan owners and loan insurers may be willing to negotiate forbearance options because the losses generated by property foreclosure typically fall on them.

Stacey Brown photo

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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