Here’s a disturbing question from AskMetafilter:

I received a foreclosure notice. I have the money, but have been having a difficult time with the lender. How do I prevent a foreclosure on my house?

I purchased my house about five years ago, and set up my mortgage to be paid with an automatic bank draft. Last May, I fell for a phishing scam and had to close my checking account immediately. I called the mortgage company, and they said I was in a “window” during which they were billing, so I would need to pay by check, then set up the automatic draft with the new account later. I did that, and then set up the draft. They claim they did not get the authorization form, and I believed they were drafting the money. Several months later, I discovered they were not.

[...]

This weekend, I check my mail. I have dozens of letters from lawyers, saying that my house “is advertised in the legal notices that your lender is planning to sell your home at public auction, scheduled for sale on December 5″ (four days ago). I am in tears. The mortgage company’s office is closed for the weekend. I have no idea how to stop this. Or is it too late? What can I do?

While this situation is heartbreaking, it was also completely preventable. Forget the foreclosure. Forget the phishing scam. This homeowner is in trouble due to a lack of fundamental personal finance skills. Specifically:

  1. The homeowner set up automatic payments but never confirmed that the transactions were being processed.
  2. She checked mail so infrequently that dozens of letters regarding the situation accumulated in her mailbox.

In order to succeed financially, you must monitor your accounts. You can have great wealth but still get into trouble if you fail to exercise basic precautions:

  • Check your mail. If your mailbox is on the street, check it daily. Even if you have a post-office box or a private dropslot, you should check your mail once a week. Retrieving your mail reduces identity theft and alerts you to matters that require immediate attention. Like foreclosure notices.
  • Monitor your bank balance. I’ve heard many stories of people who are charged overdraft fees because they aren’t aware of how much money they have in the bank. Nowadays it’s simple to check your balance online. Do it.

Even if you don’t track every penny you spend, you should pay attention to your accounts. At least look at them from time-to-time. This homeowner’s inability to attend to these two essentials may have cost her a home.

[AskMetafilter: Foreclosure — how can I stop it?]