Here's the whole story, and it's very, very long. Sorry in advance.
About four years ago, I lost my job and fell on hard times. I tried to keep up payments, but I couldn't, and among other things, my Verizon cell phone account was sent to collections.
For a couple of years I couldn't afford the payments, we went back and forth, they eventually ended up billing me something like ten times what I actually owed. They refused to lower it or change it, wouldn't send any documentation (this is the collections company, not Verizon, at this point). Finally, I said, "Fuck it. I can't afford to fight this anymore, what do you want, I'll pay it."
The woman I spoke with was very nice and apologetic. She told me that my total was $603 something, but that if I took her settlement offer, I could pay $568.98 in installments and we'd call it even. I whooped with joy! Thank you, nice lady!!
Then she told me that this settlement was only available if I could set up automatic withdrawals from my checking account. Wellp, NO. I don't have a checking account due to other circumstances, so if I made payments, they would be drawn on my mother's account; owing to the volume of fraud and identity theft associated with these sorts of companies, my mother was not comfortable setting up automatic withdrawals (I don't blame her at all, especially in light of this shit that is now going down).
We explained this, and the nice lady went and begged her supervisor to make an exception and to take regular checks. Supervisor apparently acquiesced, because Nice Lady came back and said that I would have to make three payments of $189.66 each (totalling $568.98! Yay!). I would have to call after I mailed each check, give them the check number and amount, and let them know it was on its way.
All is well, we make the payments, la-di-da. This all occurred between August and November of 2007. Note that. TWO. THOUSAND. SEVEN.
A month ago, I started receiving threatening letters from a group called Pinnacle Credit Services, demanding that I pay them the $33.18 I owe on my Verizon bill. Buzuhwha? Uhm, no dudes, I settled that with CBE!
Mom and I agreed that it was probably a mix-up, or one of those questionably legal practices where they buy old debts and then try to insist that you missed a payment or something, even though you're paid, and if you give them money without demanding documentation, well, your loss, right? There is very little protection for people from this sort of thing; the laws are designed to allow companies to collect your money--whether you owe it or not. At least, that's my understanding of it.
So off goes Mom to find her cancelled checks, and off go I to call CBE and ask them for a letter stating that I paid the settlement so I can send that and the check numbers/amounts to Pinnacle and basically tell them to fuck off.
This is where things get RICOCKULOUS.
I called up CBE. The woman I initially spoke with today informed me that they don't send out letters saying that settlements are paid. I asked for a supervisor, and this is the really entertaining/bullshit bit: apparently, I had somehow misunderstood (four times, because that's how many times I called). The amount of my settlement was actually $569.00. I had underpaid by two cents, my account was turned back to Verizon, and then Verizon sold it to Pinnacle/RMCB.
I called CBE in 2007 and set up payments. That was the first time the Nice Lady told me $568.98. I called after each check was mailed to let them know the check number and to expect it (a condition of not setting up autopayments, which I understand) in the mail, and confirmed every time that it was a payment of $189.66. Four phone calls and not one person corrected me? I find that incredibly odd. Seriously. After the last phone call I asked for a letter of payment. Oh, we don't do that, your cancelled check is your receipt. I accepted that at the time.
So here I am, expecting that this shit is cleared up, and they fucking SOLD MY ACCOUNT BACK because SOMEHOW we MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGICALLY miscommunicated the amount owed--FOUR TIMES. They didn't sent me any bills reflecting this because "we don't do that". They had gotten me to call in the first time because "the only way you can solve this is to call". Even if I tried to go the "communicate with me only by mail, please" route, they weren't having it. I understand that these companies routinely will do this, skirting the law on technicalities because they can.
So now I'm pretty fucking pissed, and the supervisor I spoke to after the lady told me, "Well, you underpaid by two cents."
"I'm sorry, but I paid you guys in full."
"No, ma'am *mocking tone*, you owed $569. So you didn't pay in full." Very smarmy and rude tone of voice--if you owe anyone money, clearly you are a kitten-raping asshole.
I finally snapped at him, "I need to speak to someone above you."
In his best, "ok crazy lady, but he'll tell you the same thing I will, you stupid cunt customer" voice (I've used that voice on difficult customers who'd demanded my manager for ridiculous things, I know that tone), he said, "O...kay, ma'am, but...ok." Asshole!
Very fortunately for me, the floor manager is a really nice guy named Tom. As of the time I finished this post (was written while I was trying not to reach through the phone and strangle Smarmy Douchebag (tm)), Tom is calling Verizon to see who actually owns my account. He advised me, with several "I'm not a lawyer and I can't give legal advice, but here's what I think you should do--but I'm not a lawyer!!" disclaimers, to send a notice of dispute in writing to Pinnacle (the reason I hadn't yet was I was waiting on the letter from CBE that I couldn't get!) and to make a note of the cancelled checks when I write them. He has promised to call me back if he finds out anything further.
Thank God for Tom, and I hope Smarmy Douchebag dies in a fire, and I am still confounded as to how it was COMPLETELY MISSED FOUR TIMES that I was supposed to be paying $569 total, and that my monthly payment was NOT supposed to be $189.66, but $189.68. I know it's one digit, FFS, but HOW DID NO ONE NOTICE THIS AT ALL!? And why did they tell me the wrong thing the first time? I wrote down everything they told me. VERBATIM. Now they're saying I somehow got it WRONG? I asked TWICE in the original phone call--it's WRITTEN twice! I STILL HAVE THE SCRAP PAPER WITH MY NOTES!!!
This whole thing sounds like an elaborate scam to me, and I'm really, really pissed.
Has anyone dealt with this shit before? Is Pinnacle going to back off if I dispute? Will CBE/AwesomeTom be able to help me?
Thank you for reading.
ETA: I have written a letter to RMCB/Pinnacle using verbiage from the debtconsolidationcare.com site (thanks to those who posted about Pinnacle's practices!!). I will send it registered mail tomorrow, with a signature confirmation card requested (last time I did that, I got tracking but no confirmation even though I paid. Grr. Bad post office, no donut!). Will update with details as they come. :) Thanks so much everyone.