TODAY   |  October 02, 2013

Rossen Reports: Firms accused of cleaning out wrong homes

TODAY’s Jeff Rossen investigates accusations that subcontractors hired by banks to seize the belongings of foreclosed homes are breaking into the wrong homes and taking away the occupants’ belongings.

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>>> we're back now at 7:43 with the new rossen reports. this one reveals a dark side of the foreclosure crisis in this country. today national investigative correspondence jeff rossen is here with details on that. hey, jeff.

>> hey, matt, good morning. if you fall behind on your mortgage the banks will hire contractors to go to your house and take it over. sometimes they break in and chuck everything but our investigation found they have made some pretty big mistakes. sometimes going to the wrong addresses victimizing innocent homeowners. imagine coming home from work and everything you own is gone. just weeks ago, nikki bailey pulled into her drive way, walked up to her house, and got the shock of her life. strange men had broken in and taken her stuff.

>> i look and there's my bedroom furniture in the back of the truck and i go excuse me, what's going on here. they tell me my house is being foreclosed upon.

>> reporter: the men said she was late on her mortgage payments. they were there to repo her house and had already thrown most of her stuff in the trash, destroying it.

>> i had a love seat , a computer desk and large sofa over here.

>> empty now.

>> empty. gone.

>> reporter: but here's the problem, nikki 's house is fully paid off. those men, were at the wrong address.

>> it is awful that these companies can just go in and take your stuff.

>> that's the place, right there.

>> reporter: we wanted answers so we tracked the contractor down here, deep in the mountains of west virginia at the end of a dirt road .

>> hi, jeff rossen from nbc news.

>> not interested.

>> we're doing a story about nikki bailey. how do mistakes like this happen? shouldn't you double and triple check addresses?

>> reporter: he dinlt wadn't want to talk but he was hired by one of the biggest companies in the industry. safeguard properties. banks hire them to go to foreclosed homes to inspect and clean them out but homeowners in 31 states have sued safeguard accusing the company of unlawful break ins.

>> homeowners worst nightmare.

>> reporter: illinois attorney general is suing safeguard too after getting hundreds of consumer complaints.

>> they have a profit incentive to break into people's homes to take their possessions and turn off their utilities and lock them out. everything they do they're charging for.

>> they're saying homes are vacant and people are still living there.

>> people are clearly living in these homes.

>> reporter: safeguard says it will vigorously fight the suit and it works to preserve properties and follows a rigorous procedure of checks and balances and quickly tries to resolve mistakes. the company won't comment on specific cases like nikki 's.

>> i had a couch here.

>> right over here.

>> reporter: now she is just trying to get paid back for all she lost.

>> i hope it never happens to anybody again that these companies make sure that they have got the correct address before they start destroying somebody's life.

>> obviously nikki 's case is an extreme example but officials say they keep getting complaints about these unlawful break ins. now they're pushing for more oversight saying the banks and the government need to keep better tabs on these contractors. if this happens to you, you're basically helpless. matt jourks to take the companies to court. you to see them to get a chance of getting your stuff back. the best idea is to call your local ag if this happened