I got a letter in the mail today from a collection agency

I was surprised because we have a good handle on what’s out there and what needs to be paid. This one was new. So I opened it, and saw immediately that an old ghost had come back to haunt me. Chase.

Some of you will recall my profound hatred for Chase, primarily for two reasons: first, it has come to light that they racked up NSF fees in ways which were unethical even by banking standards. Not to rehash that whole conversation, but suffice to say that there is at least one class action lawsuit against them for that issue, and I’m part of it. Not that I’d get rich from it, but my name is on the long list of all the folks they swindled in that manner.

The other is much more annoying, because it was Me vs Chase, and apparently Chase wants to press the issue. Back in October 2011, while I was in FPU class, I was already in the process of closing my Chase accounts due to a variety of reasons. I had reassigned all my automatic withdrawals from my Chase checking account to my new credit union account, and was just holding the Chase account open in case something came through that I hadn’t remembered to cancel. My farm’s website is a monthly auto-pay which “pulls” from whichever account I have set up with the website hosting service. I had already moved that monthly bill over to the new account. Yet right on schedule, in late October 2011, my Chase account showed a deduction for that amount, going to that company. Hmmm. My first thought was “I thought I switched that over”, and went to check. I DID switch that over, weeks prior, and I saw that the website hosting company had correctly pulled the month’s bill from my new non-Chase account. So then I thought “Ok, maybe I have to cancel them pulling it from Chase. But hey, now I’m paid a month in advance.” So I called the website hosting service’s billing department, and they said no, there had been no double billing, there was nothing on their end that showed a second debit had gone through, I had paid once and that payment had come from the new account. OK, so where did the Chase debit come from, and where did it go? Thus began the circus.

I called Chase the next day, and they said “oh, their system “automatically” prepays debits when it knows that those debits are coming, so no worries, it wasn’t anything I needed to mess with, it would automatically reverse.” I just needed to wait the three days for it to reverse when the website hosting service’s bill never came through. Hmmm. So I waited the three days. The debit against my account didn’t reverse, and then I got hit with a low-balance fee. Which then put my account into the red. Which generated an NSF fee. So while following their instructions, after having checked all the possible sources for a mistake on my part, my $30 phantom charge had already gone up to $50.

So I called again. The gal I had spoken to the first time “wasn’t available”. I went through the whole scenario again. The second gal said hmm, that’s odd, she can see where the debit went “out”, and it seemed to go to the website hosting service, but she could see in previous months that they had requested the payment yet in October no request had come through. So where did that money go? She couldn’t answer that; it was just gone. She asked me to please send her the confirmation of the fact that the bill was paid from the other account, and the hosting service had never received money from Chase for that month, and she would not only reverse the charges, she’d put the $30 back into the account. So I did. And nothing happened. I called them back to follow up, and they couldn’t find who I’d talked to (despite me having her name), and they couldn’t find where any of my information had been documented. At which point I said I really want to close this account, but they wouldn’t let me because of this outstanding issue. The only way to close the account would be to pay in full (despite all my documentation that those charges never should have happened to begin with). And then they’d settle up any differences “later”. Smelling the same rat I was smelling in that arrangement?

So I didn’t pay the fees, but I did send them all the info. A month later, I got hit with yet another low balance fee and another NSF fee. And went through the whole song and dance again. This time, they did have a record that I’d talked to someone, but “she has left the company and took all her records with her” which I already knew was a load of horse hockey. I worked in Customer Service on the phones for 12 years in the lending industry, and those kinds of records are stored on the central server, and access to them is regulated by federal law. There’s nothing that she could have taken with her which wouldn’t have triggered some steep “confidentiality” regulatory fines for either her or the company. But that was their story and they were sticking to it.

Given that I’d done my level best to clear this up, and given that they had essentially taken my money on fraudulent grounds and then wracked up a bunch of fees based on that fraudulent charge, and based on the fact that every time I tried to get to the bottom of it, they changed the story and “lost” all my previous information, in early 2012 I said forget it. I’m done. And I didn’t hear a word of it until today, when I got the collection notice.

I am torn about what to do. I have no problems paying back money that I legitimately borrowed, and we’ve got our snowball churning along towards that very purpose. But this is different – they stole that money, then tacked on charges because it wasn’t there, then expected me to pay for both the fraudulent amount and the fraudulent fees. I could pay the whole thing off tomorrow, but it’s all based on a lie. I am inclined to call the collection agency, tell them my side of the story, and tell them that they can tell Chase to stick it. BUT, I also have to acknowledge that they work for Chase, they probably couldn’t give a fig what my side of the story is, and by acknowledging the letter, I’ll sign myself up for all manner of harassment.

Any suggestions on what I should do? I have zero interest in pursuing this with Chase any further, because all my previous efforts added up to exactly zilch. I also have zero interest in going down to the local branch and having a “conversation” with the branch manager. If they can’t hang onto written documentation I have very little confidence that they’ll hang onto a spoken agreement or anything that I sign while I’m there. I guess I could pursue this through the credit bureaus, and have them pester Chase to prove that I owe the money (which Chase can’t). But I’m not sure if the credit bureaus would say the fees were still valid even if they are based on the original charge, which was fraudulent. Any suggestions for how to handle this?