Basically, the deal is this. My current cellphone (Cingular) is actually on a contract under my mom's name as we got a few years ago and she started out paying the bill for me. Eventually, I started paying the bill myself, but the contract has remained in her name, even after I've moved out of state and gotten the phone number changed to a local one here. The contract was up at the end of December so I told my mom she could cancel that one and I could get one in my name and get a new phone for free with it. (well, she would cancel it after I had the new phone in hand so I wouldn't have to go without phone service, but anyway...)
So last weekend, I go online to the Cingular site and pick out a phone and make the order. This is how my mom ordered the phone previously and it was pretty painless and easy so I figured it would be that way again this time. It probably would have except for one teensy problem. September 2005, I had my identity stolen (and that was a whole other saga, lemme tell you) and consequently now there is a fraud alert notice on my credit report that basically says I have to be contacted whenever someone tries to open an account in my name. This includes cellphone contracts. So Cingular tries to call the number listed on my credit report and apparently that number is disconnected. They proceed to email me on Tuesday (I just now wonder why, if they can email the address listed on my order form, they couldn't also call the phone number I listed there) with something that says, "we need to talk to you about your order, please respond back with a time we can call you." I'm rather confused by this and also paranoid (remember: identity theft) so I call up Cingular's customer service directly instead of responding to the email and I give them the whole schpiel and ask why I got the email and what I needed to do. They do some digging around and finally go talk to the credit department. They come back and tell me the credit department is going to try to call me and should beep in in a minute as they need to verify it was really me opening the account. I get put on hold and wait for a beep. Nothing. They come back, find out I didn't get a beep, and try again. Still nothing. They do some more talking with the credit people and it comes out that it seems the wrong number is on my credit report. I get told I'll need to fix it with the credit agency and call back after so they know they can try again. This seems reasonable, I hang up and go to deal with them.
Now, since they didn't tell me which credit agency, I assumed it didn't matter (bad on me, I know) and first checked out Experian because they had a free online trial thing to check your credit report. I go there and it has my most recent address but I don't see anything about a phone number. Confused, I call TransUnion (I don't know why but this made sense at the time). I quickly get a very nice lady there who basically says, "Oh! We have the right number but the area code is wrong (or wasn't on there, I forget which), I'll fix it right now!" and I was all like, "Thank you! *beams*". That done, I called Cingular back. Same rigmarole with customer service talking to credit and credit trying to call me. Still doesn't work. Some more talking back and forth between customer service and credit. Somewhere in there they tell me I have to update with Equifax (I guess that's where they pull the credit reports from.) I'm vaguely irked that I wasn't told a specific agency in the first place to talk to but I figure I should have asked.
I look Equifax up online. I see no way to check my credit report for free with them online as with Experian (I'm due for a free one, you see). All I find is to do that I'd have to order it over the phone and wait for it to get mailed to me. I then try to just call them at their main line. I get a voice prompt thing. I basically discover if I want to talk to a human I need a confirmation number that I have to get off my credit report. I yell at the phone a little because, in my head, if I want to change one little bit of information that doesn't require me to have the credit report in my hand, if it was so easy with the other agencies why does this have to be so hard? I find another number after some digging that looks like I might be able to get a human. As it's ringing, my phone dies. Like, the battery dies and refuses to charge. I am flabbergasted.
I figure, "hey! I can go to the Cingular store and see if they have a replacement battery/charger or, failing that, surely if I have two forms of government photo id with me I can prove I'm me and that will solve this whole problem!". So I go down to the store. I find out my phone is too old for them to have replacement anything for it but what they can do is set me up with the new plan I want and theoretically my idea of being right there in person with photo id will solve the problem I'm having and then I can just go cancel the other order.
Basically, no, sorry, credit still has to call me at the number on my credit report. Which I first have to get changed to the correct number. Which still doesn't help me because my phone is dead as a doornail. (and here's where I point out I started these whole shenanigans with the first call around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon and by the time I get to the store it's after 5 and it takes a while talking with the guy and figuring stuff out before we get to this point and now it's after 6) So I say, "hey! If you've just got a phone I can use here in the store that I can pop my SIM card into, I can do the calling thing and all will be hunky dory!" So, store guy says he can "sell" me a Go Phone (for me to use my SIM card in), I can use it, and then when I'm done, he'll return it and it won't cost me anything. This seems a dandy idea and we do that and then I call Equifax again. I get a message that says they closed at five and I'd have to call back the next day. I'm ready to scream from frustration because I just want this over with but I'm nice to the guy and tell him I'll have to keep the phone overnight and return it the next day. He's amenable to this and gives me his card and I agree to come back around the same time the next day so we can get this done.
That was all on Tuesday. Yesterday morning, about ten till eight, I try calling Equifax again. I get through the voice menu by pretending I have a confirmation number but when I get a very nice girl on the line I explain I don't, really, have one and the whole explanation (I swear there is no other way to talk to a person without hitting the "1" for "if you have a confirmatio number..."). She says I'll need to talk to the fraud department and could I call back in ten minutes? I figure they just aren't open yet and agree. I call back about 9:15 and get a different girl, I explain again and then tell her what the first girl told me. The second girl tells me, "we can't transfer you to them, you need to call the main customer care line." This is the main line I'd tried the day before and could never seem to find a human on. I'm rather confused why the first girl was capable of doing it but the second one isn't and ask if there isn't someone else there to talk to. She reiterates I need to call the other number. I relent and try it. After winding my way through the call menu and again pretending like I have a confirmatio number, I finally get a human. I explain again. I get told, "oh, I can just change your info for you if you just prove you're you by telling me these bits of information...!" basically. One of the questions she asks me is my favorite pet which is when I then remember that back during the Identity Theft saga, my mom set up an online account with them in my name (but I a: forgot the password b: forgot it existed until now). Anyway, it turns out that they had neither my current address nor my current phone number (which is where I wonder why the other agencies did have more or less the correct information, aren't they supposed to share information?). I get all that updated and thank the girl and go about my merry way.
Later in the afternoon, I try calling Cingular back. At this point, I figure I'll just continue with the online order if I can get it straightened out and keep the Go Phone in case I ever need a backup cellphone again (It was only $35). The CSR I get tells me I need to talk to the online sales department and transfers me to them. The guy I get there at first tries to tell me, "oh, your account is just under review, they'll probably contact you soon to let you know what's going on" and though inwardly I'm like, "OMG I JUST TOLD YOU THEY DID THAT AND ALL I NEED YOU TO DO IS TO TELL CREDIT THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO CALL ME NOW!!!" I just calmly say, "they did already contact me and [insert paraphrased story here] and I just need credit to know the number is updated and they can call me now." He puts me on hold and talks to credit. Apparently the number they say they have is still the old number and not my real number. I ask if maybe they need to check again or do some sort of refresh (because I figure they don't constantly update these things) and he goes and talks to credit again. Still the old number. I'm like, "but...but...I called Equifax. It's fixed. *whimper*" he talks to credit again. They apparently tell him, "it can take 48 hours to 5 days for it to actually update," I boggle. I wonder, "WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS?!?!" because if they had, I wouldn't have been so anxious about getting it done quickly (and I'm still thinking I need to get over to the Cingular store again soon to tell the rep I talked to the day before I wouldn't be getting the plan we talked about in case he needed to cancel anything and to tell him I was just keeping the Go Phone). So basically I'm told I need to call Equifax again to find out how long it will take (I really don't want to try calling them again) and get back to Cingular only after that amount of time, apparently. I ask if there's a way I can call the credit department directly so I don't have to keep going through CSRs (after all, I'm sure they a: have better things to do and b: I'm really getting tired of the telephone game). He sounds...kind of affronted I'd ask this (maybe not but that's how it sounded) and says that they only have an internal number. I try to explain I just didn't want to have to bother the CS people and he reiterates there's only an internal number so I shrug and say thank you though by this time I'm about ready to cry. (I really really really just want this all settled) Anyawy, after hanging up, I talk to the Cingular store guy and tell him if he did anything with that order to just cancel whatever he did (he says nothing went through so nothing to worry about) and that I'm keeping the Go Phone so no worries about returning it. I'm apologetic about wasting his time (I didn't quite phrase it that way, but I was) and I go.
Remember that Equifax account I remembered I had because of my mom? Armed with that information, I went and retrieved the password for it and logged into it last night. I discovered the address was updated. The phone number? Still the old (now disconnected) number I had well over a year ago now. I scowl. But look! I now have a confirmation number listed on here! I can call them without having to pretend to have one! Except I can't call them until this morning. Which I am about to do as soon as it's after nine.
Wish me luck?
[for the record, the thing that's bothered me the most throughout this is the sheer difficulty in finding a human at Equifax to talk to. I'm growing to despise the recorded voice on their menu]
EDIT: But wait! There's more!
Didn't get a chance to call Equifax today at work and when I got home I discovered the lady from Cingular I'd talked to on Tuesday had called me back and left a message so I've been talking to her and she's been trying to help me again. After her talking to credit, trying to get credit to call me, no response, her telling me I need to make sure each agency was correct (I thought I had and then why did you specifically say Equifax the other day?) and basically still getting nowhere, we discover what I already suspected after checking my account online last night that the phone number wasn't updated like they told me they'd done (remember, they did update the other stuff, after all). I didn't tell the nice lady this at the outset of her call mostly because I was kind of hoping it would magically have updated between last night and now and that it'd work.
I'm giving Equifax another shot tomorrow for a call. After that, if it still doesn't work, I think I might just cancel the damn order and live with my current arrangement for a while.