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More mysterious tales of tricks

Beware what is not said as much as what is said, says Bankrate reporter Laura Bruce.

Low balance 401(k)
Moving on to a new job? Hope you didn't leave anything behind -- especially your 401(k) retirement plan. Former employers can cash out 401(k)s that hold $5,000 or less. They have to try to notify you, but if they don't hear from you, your money could end up in a money market account earning practically nothing.

If you're leaving your job and have a low balance 401(k), read this story.

PIN vs. signature
Is your bank sending you reminders to press "credit" when using your debit card at the cash register? Maybe they're even tempting you with entry into a sweepstakes every time you press "credit."

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Here's why. When you press credit and sign the receipt, the bank makes more money on the transaction than when you press "debit" and use your PIN. But, choosing debit is a more secure transaction, and it can save you money in the long run.

. . . . . .

Bankrate readers share stories of corporate doublespeak:

Bank acknowledges transfer mistake -- but won't pay fees charged
My story is about my mother and father. Dad just passed away and Mom transferred a large sum to pay the funeral bill. She did this at the drive-through of her credit union, which gave her a receipt and never said a word. Later, without her knowledge or a follow-up letter or phone call, the transaction was reversed. Checks started bouncing left and right. They even bounced her property tax check!

Mom had to go in to the credit union to straighten it out. They finally fixed the transfer and refunded the fees they charged, but refuse to pay the fees they caused her to incur with other businesses. They insist it was her fault! When she showed the representative her receipt and told her that no notice was sent to her or my deceased father, they said none was required because it was canceled immediately -- which is impossible because they gave Mom a receipt.

The dispute over the fees is still pending, and my mom's good name has been ruined by careless, thoughtless thugs at the credit union. In her 70 years of life, she has never bounced a check. She has been banking with this institution for over 45 years!

Insurance approves surgery, then refuses to pay
Today's insurance companies require pre-approval for almost everything. But this reader was stuck with a bill of $5,000 even after receiving pre-approval.

My wife needed to get her wisdom teeth pulled, but because of her family medical history, she had to have the surgery at a hospital.

We called our insurance company for approval and were told to go ahead with the surgery because it was "medically necessary." But after my wife recovered, we discovered the tooth pulling was not the most painful part. The insurance company decided that although they said go ahead, they would not pay. You see, "medically necessary" does not mean "covered" expense.

We appealed twice and were denied both times. We tried complaining, but found out that self-funded PPO's are not accountable to the state insurance commissioner.

We are now on the hook for more than $5,000 in uncovered medical bills, just when we were planning to buy a house. Looks like that will have to wait.

Phone company takes more than purse thief
I paid all my bills and left for my vacation. Five days into my trip, my purse was stolen and I had to cancel all the credit cards and notify my credit union about my checking account. I thought all the checks had cleared, so they closed the old account and opened a new one and transferred my balance. Unfortunately, my phone company was out of state and though I thought they had received the check, it had not cleared.

My check for roughly $20 was returned to them marked "account closed." They called me and mailed me a letter saying that if I did not call them within 10 days they would disconnect my service. Of course, I wasn't home.

When I returned a month later, I had no phone. I had to pay a $25 returned-check charge, a $40 readjustment charge (for marking the bill paid, then not paid) and a $65 reconnect charge. They also wanted a $100 deposit, but I talked them out of that since I had a perfect payment record.

Even offering to show them the police report made no difference. The thief only got $40. Who's the thief here?

-- Posted: Oct. 25, 2002

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See Also
Dealer tricks at the auto shop
Held hostage to debt by credit companies
Creditors show no mercy
Identity theft continues to haunt the innocent
Credit negotiations gone awry
More mischievous tales of mistreatment

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