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Madness! Financial nightmares when paying the bills

Apparently, some people check their souls at the door when they punch in at work. Your tales of bills gone awry prove it.

Cruel rate hike
I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and had to be rushed into the hospital for emergency surgery following two days of running from one clinic to another for tests. Several hours after surgery, I realized that if a credit card payment were not made that day, it would be late.

I called my 11-year-old at home and walked him through the online bill pay process. He received a confirmation page and I was confident the payment had gone through.

Several days later, at home, I was checking the online bill pay for the payment and it was not there. The credit card company had already imposed a $35 late fee. I called them and explained the situation, made the payment over the phone -- at $10 to do so -- and made sure to point out our perfect payment history. They waived the $35 late fee. But in my next statement was an 8.99 percent interest rate increase!

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When I called, they said that it was due to a late payment, which I again explained to them to no avail. I canceled the card. This card was our oldest account and had a perfect payment history. As a result, our credit score dropped and suddenly a few of our other cards decided we needed an interest rate hike from them too, despite perfect payment histories. One even raised the rate to 24.99 percent!

Cell phone ad infinitum
I had a cell phone. I ordered the protection package for $3 per month to cover loss or damage. When my phone dropped and quit working, I called to get a new phone. They said I'd never had the protection and the $3 they'd charged me every month was for something else. They wanted to charge me $250 for a new phone. I wouldn't do that, so I asked where I could get it repaired. They didn't have anyone to repair the phone. I called and told them I was suspending my service because they could not provide what they had promised either in replacement or repair.

They continued to charge monthly fees and late fees of $29 per month for around a year, racking up $600 in charges for a phone I didn't use.

Credit crunch
I was stuck with around $60,000 in credit card bills in my divorce. I tried keeping up and paying them, but finally negotiated a settlement for about 40 cents on the dollar and paid them off with some help from family. I paid the companies enough to cover the original charges, plus reasonable interest.

As agreed in the settlement, most of the companies reported my accounts as settled with a zero balance. However, one company reported only one of my two accounts with them as paid. For the last four years, they've reported the other still outstanding. I sent a letter to the three credit bureaus with documentation that my balance was zero.

I have not heard back from all of them yet, but one credit-reporting agency replied that they would not change the report on that account. Furthermore, they will change my file to convert the balances that were reported as zero to left owing, and will report all the other accounts with other companies as still owing. I couldn't get credit to buy a pencil now.

Soul-less credit counselor
I was in a jam and thought that a credit counselor would be the answer. They scammed me out of $750 in up-front fees that I cannot get back. They took money out of my checking account on time, but in a 24-month period they paid my bills on time 15 times. The rest of the time they paid late, short-paid my accounts and even bounced checks.

Confiscated miles
I had a credit card on which I had accrued approximately 10,000 airline miles. I was in good standing with the account, but hadn't used the card in about a year. Without warning the bank closed my account and confiscated my miles! When I called to complain, all they said was, "Sorry, I didn't make the decision."

The credit card company with no memory
I missed a couple of payments over the course of a year with my credit card. They decided to lower my limit, which I can accept. However, they lowered the limit of my card to below the balance I was carrying, and then started charging me over-the-limit fees.

They started calling the house five to six times a day demanding that I pay the amount over the limit. I explained that I could not and offered to double my monthly minimum payment. They agreed to this and told me they would waive the over-the-limit fees as long as I made the payments as agreed. But they are still charging over-the-limit fees and harassing me by telephone. I've even had their representatives hang up on me.

-- Posted: Oct. 23, 2003
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