July 22, 2024

South Windsor mom billed for two of the same student loans after bank error – NBC Connecticut

A South Windsor mother took a bank up on its offer to refinance her loan.

She was thrilled to pay a lower interest rate toward her son’s college education. That is until she started getting bills for a second loan.

Paula Thantaha said she spent months and countless hours on the phone going back-and-forth with Citizens Bank trying to rectify the situation.

“And some sleepless nights, too,” Thantaha said.

When she finally called NBC CT Responds for help, the bank reached a resolution with her quickly.

“After they received the contact from NBC, they came to the decision right away. Wow. Thanks to you guys, thanks to NBC for helping me with the case. You are the voice for the small people like us,” Thantaha said.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Thantaha helped finance her son’s education by borrowing money from the feds with about a 6.5% interest rate in 2015 and 2016.

While federal loan payments were paused for her and other borrowers during the pandemic, Thantaha said she got an ad in the mail from Citizens Bank for a special student loan refinance opportunity.

The consumer-savvy mom jumped on the chance to save some cash.

In November 2020, Citizens approved Thantaha for a $23,713.45 loan at a much lower interest rate of 4.34%.

In turn, the bank would pay off her federal loan. Or so she thought.

Since November 2020, Thantaha has been paying principal and interest to the loan servicer for Citizens Bank.

She said she’s been giving them her hard-earned money, “Every month, never late.”

But when federal student loan payments resumed last year, Thantaha was understandably confused when her son’s federal loan servicer began taking hundreds of dollars in payments out of her bank account monthly.

That began in October of 2023.

“So now I am paying both. Loan to Citizens Bank and the federal loan for the same education loan I took out. How is this happening?” she asked.

Citizens told Thantaha that the bank never paid off the federal loan.

An employee of Citizens told her that it tried unsuccessfully to reach out to her multiple times after its check to her federal loan servicer never cleared.

But despite that, the bank continued to collect for its loan.

As of February 2024, she had paid about $13,000 – almost $2,500 of that in interest.

“They could reach me for that, to have me pay them. But they could not reach me to say they could not pay my loan. I do not believe that for one bit,” Thantaha said.

While attempting to rectify the situation, Thantaha said at first, the bank offered to give her back the money she paid Citizens, and then said she could take out a new loan with Citizens at the current interest rate.

This was a higher rate than the low one that tickled her interest three years ago.

“My purpose to refinance with you in the beginning was to take advantage of the lower rate to pay off quicker, so I can be done with the loan,” she said.

Thantaha didn’t feel that was a fair option.

She wondered, “What happened to the money that I paid to you, both principal and interest? What did I pay interest on? A phantom loan?”

NBC CT Responds asked Citizens Bank that exact question.

While we didn’t get an answer, Thantaha got a new offer from Citizens Bank.

The bank told her it would pay off Thantaha’s original federal loan totaling almost $24,000, and it would also forgive the rest of her student loan with its institution.

That’s an additional almost $11,000.

In a statement, Citizens writes, “While we’re unable to disclose details regarding individual customers for confidentiality reasons, in some cases there are complex circumstances involving multiple partners which may result in not meeting our standards for customer service. We strive to provide exceptional service, and when we fail to do so, we seek to learn and improve. We are committed to excellence in customer care and, if a customer’s experience is not seamless and highly satisfying, we do our best to rectify the situation quickly.”

While it surely wasn’t a quick process, Thantaha is glad NBC CT Responds could help, so she can finally move on and spend more time with her son, now a college grad who chose a career at an aerospace manufacturer.

“We have to try and help ourselves, you know, to get the right thing done and if that’s not enough, we look for help and thank God to NBC really,” she said.

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