10 titillating tales of financial mayhem
Feel the chill in the air? Hear the wolves howling at the moon? That could mean only one thing — it’s time once again for Bankrate’s annual house of financial horrrors!
Don’t be shocked by the torturous tales from Bankrate readers of creditors gone bad and payments vanishing — they could have happened to any of us. But read through these spine-tingling financial horror stories and take care not to fall into the webs left behind.
Tales from the walking dead
When my husband passed away in 2000, I knew his Social Security payment would be deducted from my bank account. Yes, a slip came through and I had to deduct it. Then a few days later, MY Social Security check was deducted, I was ready to cry. I called Debbie at my bank and she said, “Well, another pink slip came through.” I said, “Debbie, I am alive!”
She said, sadly, “Well it often happens that when one spouse dies, the other soon follows.”
Yes, that sure cheered me up. Oh thanks a lot.
So I had to go to the Social Security office downtown and prove I was alive. The man next to me said, “You sure look alive to me.”
Back in the inner office, the worker squinted at his computer. He couldn’t figure who was at fault and soon rectified it. I don’t know what color the next form was that went to my bank, but all was solved with a credit. A living DEPOSIT!
— Dolores Weaver, Alton, Ill.
Mechanics, credit cards and blood, oh my!
Once upon an eerie afternoon I was told to take our car to the local garage for a transmission estimate. It seemed to be slipping. We were frighteningly low in our checking account with no extra money anywhere, plus I was expecting a baby. Out came the vampire mechanic who talked to me and had me sign (in blood, if I remember correctly) the contract. I made known my request for an estimate.
After a window-shopping extravaganza, I returned for our car. Out came the vampire mechanic who scared me with a bill over $300. In order to get possession of my car, I had to pay the total bill with our only credit card. I proceeded to float home, but the vehicle did anything but float. It jumped, spit, snarled, stalled and did a multitude of tricks that I didn’t appreciate. What a frightful situation!
I was afraid to tell my husband, who turned a ghostly white, when I explained to him what had happened. I called my dad, our sage. He told me to call the credit card company. And guess what? I did. They refused the payment to the garage. You probably can guess at the haunting I received from that garage. They called me, morning, noon and night asking for a chance to re-repair our vehicle. There was no way that I would give them permission to rectify the awful nightmare.
Finally, I went to another garage, explained what had happened and asked them what they could do to repair the vehicle. Oh, how polite and quickly our car was running as smooth as a black cat slithering down the street. By the way, the repairs cost much less and fixed the problem.
— Lola, Riverview, Fla.
Things that go Ponzi in the night
I invested in a real estate trust at 18 percent return and received interest payments religiously every month for two years, when the feds realized it was a Ponzi scheme.
The hard thing about it was that they owned some of the prime real estate in the Boston area.
Needless to say, my investment went south. The principals spent time in jail, but we never got our investment back.
— Bernard Z., Framingham, Mass.
Night of the living interest rate
On a cold night in October 1988, we found out we would have to declare bankruptcy because my “partner” stole from our business, moved back to Montana and couldn’t be found. The ghoulishness doesn’t start just there — we had taken out a loan for $4 million, putting $500,000 down cash to the bank that financed the bowling alley we were to build. During the first two years of operation, Frankenstein Bank had their own financial troubles, unknown to us, and went through four presidents and four audits. The original president agreed to accept interest only the first year of operation, until we could “get on our feet,” then to finance the loan for 15 years. The loan was for $3.5 million at 7 percent … or so we thought.
The bank had a clause in our contract that stated that, if an audit was triggered, for whatever reason, contracts would be renegotiated. Obviously, since they were having money problems, our loan interest rate did NOT go down, but went up, FOUR times. It went from 7 percent to 14.5 percent in four years, and we still owed $3 million on the loan.
A 7 percent loan on $3 million is $17,500 interest only per month, but a 14.5 percent loan costs $36,250 interest only per month. We were losing money. We would have to pay $61,250 for operating the bowling alley, and that did not even include paying on the principal on the loan. On top of that, I found out my “partner” was skimming money off the top of the vending and entertainment machines.
He had skipped town, and the bank held me responsible for the bill. We had to declare bankruptcy.
— David, Hammond, La.
The howling wolf trap
(Wind howling through the trees and a coyote howls in the far away distance …)
The temporary walls move and bump unexpectedly, jarring me sporadically from my hypnotic entry of data and mounting piles of paperwork. The room with hand-me-down mix-and-match furniture is my first office; what I didn’t know is there would be no escape.
Years passed before I realized the office was a trap with no room for advancement and no exit from the four windowless walls (moans of pain). The only hope I had for escape was that in 13 years, I could retire. I stared straight into the abyss of stark-raving reality in this final dead-end job (sounds of a tortured person in horrible pain here).
The mental torture came in increasingly intruding thoughts that haunt me day and night. The daily horror is in the constant reality reminding me that I am trapped and can never escape or be advanced while in this position (dark Gregorian chant music here).
My heart pounding out of my chest like a caught rabbit, this reality pushed me beyond all reason and in desperation, I charged an advanced specialist degree on my Black Catty Creditor card at an outrageous 25 percent interest rate!
Nightmares of being trapped have intensified, as I am now qualified for a position I have not obtained and I am paying outrageous interest on student tuition! In my delusions, I thought I would pay off the $10,000 student tuition charge during my first year in my new position that would pay $25,000 more per year (pack of wolves growling in background).
This nightmare is real, as I find myself trapped in this windowless room with mix-and-match furniture and in the dark of the night, I wake myself screaming, “Nooooo!”
— Lois, St. Joseph, Mo.
No escaping this house of horrors
We belong to a member-only credit union that had a set of rules. A few months ago, “they the powers to be” decided to change the rules about how their place is run.
We the members had to pay $5 to join so they got their funds straight away. How can I help that they cannot manage their funds the correct way?
Not everyone wants a 12 percent loan or to carry their insurance or even finance a vehicle with them. Now my membership is diminished, but I am stuck until my IRA CD comes due, which is not until December 2012. In the meantime, I have to jump through their hoops, which is very upsetting. Mind you I have been a loyal member for more than 25 years.
— Nancy Stanek, Lomita, Calif.
Drive a stake through these investments
Years ago, my financial adviser at Grim Reaper Financial called me in order to tell me that I should sell all of the shares from various spinoffs, as they were meaningless in quantity. I took her for her word and sold them.
I later noticed a fee in my next statement from Grim Reaper concerning the sell order.
I called her and asked why.
She told me that I have to pay for all sell orders ($40 per sell order). Here’s the kicker: I only received about $30 in total from this sell-off of shares while her company billed me for $150. In other words, I lost more than $100 from this.
I asked her: Why would I would sell these meaningless shares if I was going to lose money on the transaction?
She told me, “It was a mental thing.” I asked her what this meant — I am a physician, so I know about mental. She said it would be less of an emotional drag on me to see these few shares in my portfolio.
I dropped her and Grim Reaper Financial soon after.
— Gary Spector, Westport, Conn.
Pay up or else …
I have had these awful people from Draconian Depository & Trust calling me all hours of the day and night telling me if I don’t pay back a payday loan from 2008, they will extradite me to California and throw me in jail.
The company they say I have a loan with never gave a loan; as a matter of a fact, that company doesn’t even exist.
It’s a scam where they steal all your personal info and use scare tactics to try to force you to give them money.
— Larry Geltzer, Abesecon, N.J.
A secret tale of fee schemes
I opened an account about a year ago with savings, checking and credit card accounts at Batty Bank — put some money in to get started and used it for a few months with their free bill pay. I was told that there were no fees for the accounts, but a couple of months after opening the account, I was being charged fees. Apparently I was transferring money too often. I went into the bank to close the accounts, and was told that withdrawing all the money from the checking and savings accounts would effectively close the accounts. I did this and thought that everything was good.
About two months later, I got another statement from Batty Bank with more fees. Apparently at the end of the month that I withdrew all of the money, I got two pennies of interest and the account didn’t close. So they charged me a fee of $10 for not having a minimum balance.
Because I didn’t have the $10 in my account, they charged me another $20 to charge my credit card $100 so that the fees could be paid.
I called to complain, and after spending about two hours on the phone, they were able to reverse all of the transactions, but I did have to go back the bank to withdraw the two pennies that were left.
— Colin, San Jose, Calif.
The silence of the patients in a haunted hospital
On a Friday, I was hospitalized because of a kidney stone attack. On Sunday morning, I was surprised to discover that 10 people had been allowed to visit with the patient in the other bed in our room. Since I wear a powerful hearing aid, I was shocked to hear the individuals discussing personal information about me including financial information. Immediately, I suspected identity theft, but was told by the nurse in charge that the hospital was a safe zone and this could not happen.
As the morning progressed, the individuals beyond the curtain started talking about how they would have one of the assistant nurses take me in a wheelchair to the elevator and several of the individuals would inject me with something to cause cardiac arrest (substance to be provided by the nurse in charge of the section).
When the time came for my release from the hospital, friends were to meet me at the front entrance. Sunday is a very quiet day with very few people around.
I refused to leave the hospital in a wheelchair, and finally one of the employees said he’d go downstairs with me. When we arrived on the first floor, he wanted me to go down a dark corridor. But I saw an exit leading directly outside, and went that way. Fortunately, a man was purchasing a newspaper outside the front entrance to the hospital. I asked him to stay with me until my friends arrived to take me home.
When I arrived home, I attempted to retrieve my annual credit report, only to discover that someone had already obtained it with my Social Security number from the hospital records. Since it was Sunday, I could only cancel my credit cards by telephone. The next day was a bank holiday. On Tuesday, I could close all of my bank accounts and reach my broker about my stock accounts. This was a shattering experience requiring much effort on my part to prevent identity theft.
— Cecil P., Kihei, Hawaii