Tuesday, August 28, 2012

USPS provides guidance on NCOA

The United States Postal Service now hands out a card explaining how to use NCOA (National Change of Address) online.  The instructions include the use of a credit card to verity identity, and the receipt of a confirmatory email (much like a password reset email with link).

That’s good as far as it goes;  what I have proposed before (Sept. 25, 2006) was the idea that every financial product or loan application be checked against an off-line database, which could be NCOA on a mainframe, in order to verity that the consumer will actually receive billing notices and know that an account was taken out. 

I already missed a legitimate account (if cheesy) from an airline recently; the first bill never arrived.  I paid if off; soon I’ll check my credit score to assess the “damage”.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Airline Master Card surprises me with annual fee, past due bill when I never activated card, never got bill; it's legal, not phishing; but it's deceptive!

I was not too pleased with how US Airways behaved.  Yes, I applied for their Master Card on a trip to Los Angeles in May, and I did get the card a few weeks ago.  I hadn’t activated it yet, just hadn’t bothered.

I got a bizarre automated cell phone call from US Air, twice, which seemed to die when I try to enter the prompts.  So I activated the card and called the 866 number which turned out to be Barclays.   (You should not pay a bill when called unless you can verify it is valid; you should call the 800 number on your card yourself.  Obviously, this sort of situation would lend itself to phishing, too.) Yes, I owed $89 for the annual fee and a $22 past due penalty (which is low by industry standards; $39 is typical now), for a card I hadn’t even activated yet.  I suppose my FICO score has already taken a hit, so I had no choice but to pay the $111 by phone. 

Now I’ll have to do my credit report in about a week, after there has been time for the payment to be reported to the three reporting companies (and to Fair Isaacs).  Will my score come back when the  payment shows up?

I did not even receive a bill my mail or email.  They just simply applied the charge.

And I’ve never heard of an annual fee until you’ve had the card for a while.  Maybe airline cards are different. 

This seems like a racket. 

But at least a phone call tipped me off to the fact that there could be a problem.  Otherwise, it might have gone unnoticed and wound up in collections.  

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

DC turns unpaid parking tickets over to debt collectors

The District of Columbia is turning over unpaid parking tickets to debt collectors, and this can cause FICO or Vantage credit scores of violators to drop suddenly, by over 100 points.

Other jurisdictions are very likely going to do the same, especially for out-of-town tickets from distant states.  They could do the same thing with red light and speeding photo tickets.

It does seem that scores will go back up if violators settle the tickets in full.  It’s not clear, however, what happens if they settle through the debt collection agency, which takes a substantial cut.

WJLA (ABC affiliate) has the story here 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Medical debt collector in MN tried to interfere with emergency care

A medical debt collection company, Accretive Health, has agreed to pay a civil fine to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office and has been barred from contracting with hospitals in Minnesota for two years.

The company is said to have hindered operation of a federal law that requires provision of emergency care to uninsured patients who cannot pay.
The company was accused of placing debt collectors near hospital emergency rooms and trying to pressure patients to pay before receiving treatment.

Kaiser has a news story on the litigation here
It is common for debt collection companies to have separate departments for medical collections.  A debt collector that I worked for in 2003 had such an operation.