On Hold: Even Congresswoman Gets the Runaround on Bank Help Lines

Rep. Maxine Waters dials and redials in attempt to get help for constituents.

ByABC News
January 21, 2009, 5:59 PM

Jan. 22, 2009— -- In a revealing example of what she says the average homeowner faces, a California Congresswoman spent more than two hours on the phone trying, without success, to find someone at the Bank of America who could help a struggling constituent modify his mortgage payments. ABC News "Nightline" cameras were rolling as Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) was repeatedly put on hold for long stretches, disconnected, transferred to extensions that did not work and ultimately switched to a recording which directed her to the bank's website.

"The average American trying to negotiate a loan modification will not be able to get it done," said Waters. "It will be impossible for them to get in touch with the right person, and even if they get in touch with a so-called counselor, they have a cookie cutter kind of direction that they go in."

While the federal government and banks say they're trying to help homeowners avoid foreclosure through various help lines and more, an ABC News investigation has found that the process of reaching out for help can be disorganized and frustrating, hardly consumer friendly, even when a prominent member of Congress is on the line.

To prove her point, Waters agreed to let "Nightline" listen in on her attempts to contact her constituents' lenders on behalf of homeowners with nowhere else to turn.

Click here to watch Rep. Waters on the phone.

"Most of the day was spent trying to trace down the right person or the right department to deal with the loan modification," said Waters. "It was awful."

The Beards of Los Angeles are a retired couple who are not even behind on their mortgage payments, but they, like many others, are struggling to keep up. When Waters offered to call Bank of America on their behalf, it turned into a two hour ordeal.

Waters was met first with a recording that many callers have heard before, "all representatives are currently assisting other customers, please hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received."