A new class action lawsuit accuses beleaguered banking giant Wells Fargo of fraudulently deceiving mortgage customers facing bankruptcy with unauthorized loan changes that appeared to reduce payment amounts, but which did so at a cost of extending the home loans by decades. As reported by the New York Times, the borrowers “would have monthly payments for far longer and would ultimately owe the bank much more.”

The loan changes came as a surprise to the borrowers, but the payment reductions — which when discovered seemed like a welcome respite to those facing financial hardship — had a real price tag buried deep in the restructuring details that would keep them indebted to the bank for vastly increased periods of time. “Any change to a payment plan for a person in bankruptcy is subject to approval by the court and the other parties involved. But Wells Fargo put through big changes to the home loans without such approval,” reported the Times.

The bank claims these allegedly unapproved loan modifications were part of a trial program seeking to help the borrowers remain in their homes, but critics note the changes put the home owners at risk of defaulting, and could leave the loan recipients prey to foreclosure at a future time, especially given the significant extension of the overall loan period.

Wells Fargo claims that the loan recipients and the relevant courts were notified about the changes. The filings in the case indicate Wells Fargo has been making unrequested alterations to borrower loans since as early as 2015. At present, it is unknown just how many unrequested loan modifications Wells Fargo made to mortgage customer accounts nationwide, but multiple cases alleging such improper practices have sprung up in at least five states. Judges in bankruptcy courts have criticised the bank for these practices; the Times noted that one judge termed the conduct “beyond the pale of due process.”

Read the full article on the New York Times site.