'Banking bad': Angry mortgage customers act, sing and post their grievances (© James Braund/Getty Images)

© James Braund/Getty Images

Watch out, lenders. When today's borrowers get fed up with their mortgage lender's customer service, they don't just write a letter to the CEO or file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. They make a movie.

Just ask De Veau Dunn, an independent filmmaker from San Diego, who created a "Banking Bad" YouTube channel, website and Facebook page for disgruntled Bank of America mortgage borrowers.

His short film, "Bank of America Wants You to Die," shows the lender appearing to stall his attempt at a loan modification by insisting in two letters over a two-month period that he send in a copy of his own death certificate, along with his pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns, and documentation of child-support payments that he supposedly had asked to be included. Dunn has no children.

After he complains to his loan manager about the letters, he is told in an email that the bank lost these documents and asks him to email them back in as proof that those strange requests actually were made, according to documents shared with MSN Real Estate.

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After months of back and forth with the bank and a formal complaint, he filmed the slick, seven-minute film with his actor friends playing a clueless customer-service representative and a Dracula-type mortuary worker. The video now has more than 27,000 views on YouTube, which prompted him to shoot a second episode with an interview detailing more loan-modification abuses.

"When I was going through this, it was very painful," Dunn says. "I was ignored. I didn't want this to happen to anyone else."

Airing complaints on social media
Films, music videos, Twitter handles such as "GoldmanSachs666" and derogatory Facebook fan pages are just some of the ways a growing number of customers are speaking out about lenders, who they think aren't listening to their complaints.

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"It's the most powerful way to get something done," says Mark Schwanhausser, a financial-industry technology analyst for Javelin Strategy & Research. "It's not only a soapbox, it's one with a megaphone or an amplifier."

Schwanhausser says consumers get to this point when they feel angry and confused about whom they should turn to for help. Should they go to a consumer group, hire a lawyer or what?

"It's when the normal process breaks down," Schwanhausser says, "and you say, 'What can I do?'" Years ago, he says, you would have had to protest outside a bank branch or call a local news station to get a similar response. "Social media creates an opportunity for everyone to be their own Michael Moore."

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Many banks are keeping an eye on social media’s impact on their image. Rants of this type could give a black eye to the brand, if there are enough of them or if any one of them gets enough hits, Schwanhausser says. And that could start to chip away at business.

Many of the nation's largest banks have set up social media SWAT teams to respond to vitriolic tweets and YouTube complaints, in addition to the occasional compliment and more mundane questions such as, "Where's my closest ATM?"

Bank of America, for instance, has been monitoring Twitter since 2009 through its BofA_Help handle and has created a "Get Help" application so customers can ask questions privately and get complaints resolved.

"Most of the effort with social media is branding or making yourself a trusted brand," says Schwanhausser, who has studied banks' social media habits and published a report on the topic last year.

But just because large lenders are responding to customers on social media, that doesn't mean they are resolving the bulk of these customer complaints, Schwanhausser says. In many instances, they are just putting the burden on the customer to contact a local branch, and giving the illusion of a positive interaction with a response on Twitter such as "Glad we could help."

"They don't want a stink bomb out there," Schwanhausser says. "Very seldom will it be that the consumer gets the last word" on Twitter or Facebook, he says. "They recognize that this is public record and they are putting the best polish on it that they can."

Who's complaining
Banks have been slower than some other industries to embrace social media, analysts say, in part because of the sensitive financial nature of their business and regulations that surround it.

However, they now have to figure out this space because younger generations see social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as the primary place to voice complaints, says Adele Sage, a digital customer experience analyst with Forrester Research.

"You think about those generations," she says. "That's the first place they go for anything."

Generation Y and Z rely mainly on Twitter, websites and online forums to register their complaints rather than private feedback, she noted in a report last month.

Schwanhausser says older borrowers, especially users of mobile banking technology, are also getting comfortable taking their questions and concerns to social media.