Hank Investigates: HUD Money
|Is your name on this list? If it is, you may have refund money coming. We found this Boston music teacher is owed about $680.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
We found this Dracut mother is owed $2,600!
"I'm sure other people are owed money too."
She's right! Our investigation found the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development owes this list of homebuyers a total of $90 million. Some of those people like the man who owned this Fitchburg home, wonder why they didn't hear about it from the Feds. We found he's owed 1400 dollars!
"If we've got money we should be able to get it."
Don and these 120,000 others are owed money because they overpaid mortgage insurance on federal home loans. It's HUD's job to return those millions. Matt Franklin is deputy secretary.
"We are real proud of our refund program."
HUD'S program, a computerized mailing system, sends at least three notification letters like these to homeowners due refunds. It does pay 350,000 people a year.
"The goal is to get the refunds in the hands of folks."
But we obtained this list of tens of thousands of people still owed refunds---hundreds in New England alone! And many told us that they've never heard from HUD.
"I received no information or notification from the government that I had HUD money due to me."
"I don't think someone is doing their job."
"There's something wrong with the system."
HUD says the system works fine.
But, we discovered, not as hard as they might. We notified dozens of people on the refund list just by using a common internet phone directory and calling them. It was a snap! We found Jackie in one phone call.
Debbie was one phone call too.
"I've lived in the same house since I bought it back in 1996. The same address."
But HUD sticks to the mail.
As a result, our investigation found, some people have discovered how to profit from the system's failure. Looking at these letters, Don Gray got hundreds of them. "United States Housing Refund Notification", one says, with a big seal and "final notice" in bold print.
"It looks like it's from the U.S. government."
The letters say, "the U.S. government is holding your money" so just sign this contract and we'll claim it for a percentage. Problem is that these "tracer agencies" are not connected with the US government. They're just businesses, who buy HUD's refund mailing list and send these letters hoping to get people to pay for something that's free. What's more, when Don sent in $280 his tracer took the fee and took off.
"I think the tracers must be a rip-off."
Federal officials agree, three years ago at this news conference they promised to crack down on tracers posing as government officials, but we found on the web and in the mail there's still a thriving industry designed just to cash-in where the government misses out.
"Shame on the government for not trying a little bit harder."
HUD officials can show you how to get your money. It takes about 120 days and remember if you do have money coming to you, you don't have to pay anyone to help you get it.
To find out if HUD owes you money, check HUD's website or call 1-800-697-6967.