Friday, May 29, 2009

Lessons Learned

So, we're going in the way-back machine right now, but do you remember the whole "Chris got his identity stolen and a collections agency was convinced that we owed them 18 months worth of cell phone bills for a company we've never had a cell phone with" situation of 2007? (I wrote about it here, here and here.)

Way back then, we thought it had been resolved: we talked back and forth between Telus Mobility and the collections agency, and after Telus did an investigation, they established that it wasn't Chris at all they were looking for: there's some dude out there with the same first and last names as Chris, who lives in Ontario, but then totally disappeared off the map with a ton of unpaid bills two years ago. When the cell phone bill went to collections, they couldn't find this dude anywhere, and did essentially a Canada 411 search and the only person listed with that exact first and last name was my dear husband. (I'm seriously going to have that changed soon, because I'm tired of people assuming that Chris is that other guy.)

So, a cell phone company and a collections agency, based only on someone having the same name and making no effort to confirm that Chris was actually that guy (you know, Social Insurance number...), decided Chris was the guy they were looking for, sent him the collections letter, and managed to have this all put on Chris's credit report. Wow, is that ever sketchy of everybody.

Once it was all ironed out that Chris wasn't the guy they were looking for, everyone promised that this would be taken off of Chris's credit report.* But then, several months later, we got another letter from the collections agency, saying we still haven't paid this bill. Chris called them, with all the original numbers and stuff, and they were all "Sorry! My mistake! We'll have this taken off your record immediately."

Right. (Lesson #1: ask for written confirmation of everything. Never trust spoken promises from businesses.)

Today, we finally signed up for Equifax and took a look at Chris's credit report. (Lesson #2: Seriously, sign up for Equifax now. This frequently the only way you'll find out for yourself that something sketchy has been happening.) We were shocked when we saw how low Chris's score was, and as we looked through the report, at first everything looked good. And then we got to the bottom, and saw the report under "Accounts sent to collections." Yup, there was that same Telus Mobility account, still tied to Chris's name, nearly two years later.

Cue a ransacking of the house, as we try to find that original collection letter. And then an hour on the phone back and forth between the agency and Telus, as they all try to dig up their files on this stuff. (Lesson #3: Keep a copy of everything. This collections agency's filing system is terrible.) And Chris, all over again, had to demonstrate that this cell phone account didn't belong to him, that it was just a coincidence of having the same name.

(Lesson #4: Learn how to advocate for yourself and hound everyone until situations like this are fixed. It turns out that the system with most credit-related businesses is weighted strongly against the victim. You are constistently guilty until proven innocent, and then have to prove your innocence over and over, as everyone assumes that you somehow forgot that you had a cell phone or something.)

So, we're going through the process of having this removed from Chris's credit report, again. At least this time we've learned a few lessons.

(By the way, the best thing I did back then was blog most of the process. I was able to track down dates and specifics, thanks to the record I kept here.)


The Blog Fodder said...

File EVERYTHING. I have almost all emails back to 2002. Just in case. A scanner is a good investment as unless you are Malachai McKwitless, too much paper can be a bit of a burden.
Glad the story ended well.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I'm exactly on the same page as you, Uncle Al. And I thought that Chris was, too, except apparently he was thinking "This paperwork isn't useful anymore and it has my personal information on it! Better go through the shredder." Eep.