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And: More bone-chilling stories

Gasp at tales of inflated car loans, banks that are run either by idiots or evil-doers -- maybe both -- and an elm tree evil enough to sit on Freddy Krueger's block.

Kids used for a fake charity
A middle-aged man and a female teenager showed up on my doorstep. They were raising money for a local school and had a catalog with the usual junk of overpriced candy and salami sticks. The young girl pleaded that they were raising money for some obscure cause. She had an official looking document that I didn't bother reading.

I ordered the salami stick box for $10. They wrote my name down, took the money and promised to deliver the merchandise in two weeks.

I'm still waiting for my salami sticks. I was conned by the oldest trick in the book. Use children in a con and people tend not to suspect the worst.

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Attack of the expanding car loan
I was out of work and I had to make a mortgage payment. I borrowed $800 from a finance company. Six weeks later they have my car and they want more than $1,600 to get it back -- even though I already paid them more than $400.

Bank with a tight grip
I decided to open a second checking account. Using the bank's Web site, I applied for a checking account and was instantly approved. The message I received from the bank encouraged me to make my initial deposit as soon as possible. I went to a local branch and deposited $400 in the newly opened account. One week later I received a letter stating that due to negative entries on my credit report, no accounts could be opened. I returned to the branch to receive a refund and was told that corporate had put a "hold" on my account and the funds could not be released.

After two months of letters, e-mails, telephone calls and two bank statements showing interest earned, I received an apology from the bank and a check for $392. Apparently I was charged a service fee for closing the account in less than 90 days!

Transforming trust
I appointed a small, local bank with a fabulous reputation as successor trustee to a small family trust after they agreed to the investment strategy of "balanced income and growth." They did a marvelous job for seven years. Then, the bank merged with a larger bank but still kept their own trust department. Everything went well for several more years until the surviving bank was taken over by the FDIC and sold.

Immediately everything went bonkers. The bank changed the objective to balanced asset allocation. It sold most of the good, high-yielding equities we had and replaced them with equities with no track record, tiny yields and much greater, faster growth potential.

My income kept going down and the portfolio grew and grew. Since the bank's fees are based on market value, I was hit with a double whammy: lower income and double the fees being extracted from the lower income.

I learned to never sign anything irrevocably no matter what promises have been made, and not to trust anything to a bank except your checking and savings accounts.

Charging for son's missing paycheck
My son was supposed to receive his paycheck by direct deposit, but instead they made a mistake and sent it in the mail. It never arrived, so two weeks later, he finally got someone in payroll to cut him a new check and they charged him $30 to reissue it!

Year of the living-dead tree
I noticed the 110-foot elm tree in my yard had a limb that looked sick, with wilting leaves. I called the city tree inspector to request an evaluation. He came out while I was not home and left a report that it was nothing, probably just stress due to the wet and rainy summer we'd had.

The next year, the whole tree looked sick. I called the city tree inspector again. The same guy came out. This time I was home. Cutting down a branch and removing the bark, he found the signs of Dutch Elm disease, marked the tree for removal, and told me it would cost $3,000 to have it cut down.

I made some calls to a couple of arborists and a horticulturist to see if the tree could be saved. They said that surgery might have saved the tree the year before, but now it was too late.

A friend suggested I call the electrical company because the tree was next to power lines and they might cut it down for free to protect their assets. They did cut down most of it. The supervisor of the crew told me that he seldom gets calls from the homeowner -- his calls usually come from the city. So, the city bills the citizen full price, then calls the electrical company and pockets the difference.

I called a tree removal company to cut down the remaining trunk. They charged me $828. This company is the same one the city contracts to cut trees.

Negative report for a product never purchased
I was sent a bill collection notice of $270 for a product I did not purchase. The collection agency's letter said that if I did not pay, there would be a negative report placed with the credit bureaus. The collection agency had no telephone number. So out of fear of harming my credit, I sent the collection agency a check for $270. I recently pulled my credit report to do an annual check. That collection agency sent in a negative report. I am now in the process of contesting.

-- Posted: Oct. 23, 2003
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MAIN: Financial fright: Scariest stories
Scariest scams of the year
Bankrate's scam roundup
Financial advice glossary
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