The Checkout

Message to MCI: It's NOT Me!

In this age of identity theft and hijacked MySpace identities, proving you're you is not always easy. Just ask Lisa Newman of the District. Lisa has been fighting just such a battle against MCI, which keeps trying to get her to pay someone else's bill.

About three years ago, Lisa began receiving long distance phone bills for a phone number she never had. At the time, she hadn't been an MCI customer for many years. Lisa quickly called MCI about the bills, customer service workers and supervisors assured her the mix-up would be fixed.

Several months later, though, another MCI bill appeared in her mailbox.

Lisa called the phone number on the bill and discovered the root of the problem. The name of the woman who answered was Lucy Newman. She, too, said she had been fighting MCI.

Lisa relayed the situation to MCI, which, once again, promised to get its act together. But the bill-and-complain cycle repeated itself several more times.

Lisa thought the case of mistaken identity was finally behind her after a chat with MCI in January. She even received a letter saying the disputed MCI account had been closed. Then, in mid-August, she received a notice from a collection agency working for MCI.

She called the collection agency, apoplectic. "It was clear they did not believe me about the bill," she said. "They kept saying, 'MCI would have only sent this to us if you owed the debt!' "

The grand total of the bill, by the way, is $39.74. Lisa refuses to pay, even if it would make the whole mess go away. "I have this very German side of me," she said, "very orderly in some ways, and that side is the person with perfect credit history!"

For the sake of her FICO, she next stormed the phone tree at MCI, refusing to get off the phone until she got an answer.

MCI initially told her that it had "erased" its record of her name and had no files on her debt since they had turned it over to a collection agency. Later, they found her file using the errant phone number. It turned out, her situation had been "in research" at MCI and never resolved, and, of course, referred to a collection agency.

She hung up with a promise from an MCI customer service rep to call her on Aug. 21 with a resolution. No one called.

Two weeks ago, Lisa pulled her credit report and was relieved that it remained unblemished.

When asked about the Lisa/Lucy situation, Christy Reap, a spokeswoman for Verizon, which now owns MCI, said: "Obviously, we--someone, somewhere, somebody--dropped the ball on this. Verizon and its predecessor work hard on customer care. Something went very wrong with her specific issue in getting it resolved in a timely way. We're working to get it resolved."

Epilogue: Following an inquiry by this reporter, Lisa received a letter on August 28 saying her situation had been resolved by the "MCI Executive Escalations office" for good.

Have you ever spent time in customer service purgatory? Share your story here because, as they say, misery loves company but hates call centers.

By Annys Shin |  September 13, 2006; 6:00 AM ET Customer Service
Previous: A Pretext of Vulnerability | Next: The Elusive Escalations Office

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I'm fighting one right now. I got a letter 3 weeks ago from Enterprise rent a car seeking $40 in fees and fines for a parking ticket issued in May to my rental car. They paid it on my behalf. The problem is I never got a ticket. The ticket was for an expired DC meter but I was never in DC that day and in fact I was at my doctors in Annapolis with the car. I have notes to prove it from my doctor. Enterprise paid the ticket since it was 3 months overdue. But this was done before I was even aware of it. Now it is to late to contest it in court and they demand their money since my contract states I agree to pay all fines incured while I have the car.

Posted by: Drew | September 13, 2006 7:05 AM

A few years ago I received a credit card from SunTrust (then our bank). Not an offer, but an honest-to-god, peel off this label and call this number to activate $10,000 credit card. This was a bit of a surprise since I hadn't asked for it and religiously keep an eye on my credit report after not fighting an issue harder about 10 years before and suffering for it.

I immediately called and cancelled the card, and asked the customer rep (CR) why I had received it in the first place. The answer: I must have asked for it and forgot (*snort*) or it must have been a renewal of an old card (but I'd never had a SunTrust card before).

After hanging on the phone with CR after CR (and refusing to get off), it was finally determined that the card came from a generic batch order that originated at a branch where I'd made a quick drive-thru deposit earlier in the month.

I then went to the bank to ask the manager about it. He then started to give me the "of course you ordered it" speech and actually tried to dismiss me from his office!

I ended up having to raise my voice (just under yelling), and explaining that receiving an unasked for credit card was violation of the Truth-in-Lending Act (very true), so he was going to figure out how this happened. I don't enjoy making scenes, but it was effective in this case.

Turns out the bank software has sales options during every transaction you make - the teller had clicked "yes" instead of "no" for "would the customer like a credit card?", but didn't realize he did it, and there's no "are you sure?" dialog to cancel the request once it's gone through.

I ended up writing a letter to both SunTrust corporate and reported the incident to the FDIC. If every customer rep hadn't treated me like an idiot who ordered credit cards and then forgot about it, I wouldn't have bothered. But the condescending attitude really annoyed me, especially considering how easy it was for a bank employee to make this mistake.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 13, 2006 8:23 AM

And the phone number to the MCI Executive Escalations office would be...?

Posted by: Gary Goldberg | September 13, 2006 8:37 AM

when something like this gets national coverage, of course the corporation will focus on the issue. Problem is, this kind of thing happens to all of us, and we cannot publish all the stories, or even a very small percentage. The only thing I can think of is to take notes in all your transactions, assuming the institution is going to mishandle the situation, and so you will have a paper trail from the beginning. What a pain.

Posted by: mark fishel | September 13, 2006 8:39 AM

Had a problem with ATT a couple of years ago. I had dropped ATT in favor of Verizon. Then 18 months later, ATT sends me a bill for long distance 'service' for a phone number that I had abandoned a year before I dumped ATT. But it had my current address.

I spent hours on the phone convincing them that I wasn't even a customer. They kept asking if I was unhappy with the service provided....and I'd tell them no service was provided since I wasn't a customer. They eventually relented and said that they'd take care of the bill.

The next month, I got another bill. Showing the credit from the previous month's argument. And then billing me for the current month.

More hours on the phone passed, and the operator finally just started hitting me with statements like "you wouldn't be getting the bills in error if you'd let me switch you over..." ATT was obviously trying to slam me.

After I hung up. I sent in a complaint to the FCC. Within a week I got a letter from some ATT VP/stooge, apologizing for the incident and wishing that I had not gone to the FCC and that we could have resolved it differently. I figured that billing old customers was a way that they had used to get around the 'no call list'.

Posted by: Kim | September 13, 2006 9:40 AM

I got a notice from my bank that I had missed a mortgage payment. When I checked it out, what had happened is that I had paid both a first and second payment with the same check, but included both coupons. The bank had applied the entire amount to only the first mortgage. I called and they very courteously claimed to fix it on the spot. They did so, and I verified it via the internet. However, a few months later I got a letter again telling me that I had missed a payment. Over the phone now many times over the next couple of months, and eventually faxd copies of that check and others to prove they had received all payments. Nice lady handling this but I did a lot of work to help them fix their mistake. Thought all was OK until I checked my credit report and found out the "missing" payment had been reported. More phone calls. Fixed: Hopefully??

Posted by: Jim Damron | September 13, 2006 9:45 AM

Who doesn't have a collection of stories like these? I seem to join Caroline with Verizon as having been my personal nemesis. I could tell stories for pages on them (and do on my website, even awarding them the Bone-Headed Award for Marketing . . . http://www.guidedstar.com/bonehead.htm ).

But the real issue here is that the insanely drastic loss of anything close to real customer service, hidden in voicemail loops from hell, over the last 20 years has shifted a cost burden from big business onto the everyman. Either you suck up to their mistakes and inaccuracies or you pay through the incredible investment of time that it requires to fix it. Paying that wrong bill at $39 to make it go away is probably cheaper than the time you'll invest in winning that battle.

If you are to be a smart consumer, the volume of personal time now required to be dedicated to managing relationships with the companies that provide phone, utilities, banking, cars, insurance, TV, and other everyday services, is enormous. The winner is big business that has enjoyed "productivity" gains by firing thousands of workers on a repeated basis. It amounts to a shifting of the cost to us. As I say on my site, it guarantees that, one day, there will be a consumer revolution.

Posted by: Tim Brady of Guided Star | September 13, 2006 9:52 AM

I am sure I have had mix-ups in the past but they obviously didn't scar me for life so I have subsequently forgotten about them. My latest mix-up was with Cox Cable. I moved last January and switched my service. They took my last month's bill at my old house - which I paid - and transferred the balance to my new account at my new house. When I called them to ask about it, they said they would fix it. They didn't and my next month's bill still showed an unpaid balance. I call again and they assured me they fixed it. They sure fixed it. Instead of subtracting this transfer from my bill, they readded it!!! to my bill. So now I owed twice as much as before. The third time was the charm and they even gave me a little customer satisfaction credit.

I have discovered that you really need to look over your bills when you get them to make sure that no mistakes were made. I discovered that Cox Cable was double-billing me for Internet access. It had actually been going on for 4 or 5 months and Cox reversed all the charges from the day it had started without a problem.

Posted by: Billie | September 13, 2006 10:06 AM

I had a somewhat similar experience except I actually owed the amount due. I received a credit for $25 or so on a bill and then received a final bill for $.02. I called MCI and they told me not to worry about it, and simply credited the amount.

I don't know if anyone else knows this, but behind the scenes at most major corporations are tons and tons of....people...running software and systems that are not always perfect. Not everything is connected together like you see in the movies. Data is moved from system to system in batches, database dependencies and record protection sometimes causing an update from one system downstream to either be ignored or overwritten by some other more important record. The PR firms and the commercials make it look like everything is going smoothly, but every large company I have ever worked at consists of what I jokingly call 'chickens with no heads' running around behind the scenes.

Posted by: Jason | September 13, 2006 10:20 AM

It took one year and a letter to the Vice President of Chase Mortgage before we were able to close the account for our (fully-paid) second mortgage. We couldn't believe the run-around we were given. We logged numerous phone calls, and even went in person to speak with a local Chase Mortgage officer, but the account stayed open months and months after it was fully paid. This wasn't a dire predicament, of course, because at least they acknowledged that we didn't owe them any more money but we never meant to have this account kept open and it seemed outrageous that we couldn't close an account that was fully paid and done with. Incidentally, we also had problems closing our Chase Mastercard, which had no outstanding balance.

Posted by: Peggy | September 13, 2006 10:27 AM

The Boston Globe has done an excellent series of stories about people caught in debt collection hell.

Today's story is about just this topic of being hounded for a debt you don't owe:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/09/13/debt_collectors_hunt_the_innocent

Posted by: Corinne | September 13, 2006 10:33 AM

"Verizon and its predecessor work hard on customer care."

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

..and Iran's uranium enrichment program is for "peaceful purposes" only. Actually, to be entirely fair, there's a slight glimmer of truth in the the mullahs' claim.

Verizon, Comcast/Cox, CVS... more Americans ought to reflect on the question "Why do they hate us?"

Posted by: athea | September 13, 2006 10:38 AM

I had student loan payments going to the same address, so I figured I'd save a stamp and write two checks (one for each coupon for the month) and mail them all together (paperclipped the corresponding check/coupon). I can't tell you how many times they said I owed for the month for one loan because they couldn't figure out what I was doing! They finally straightened out, but it was annoying.

Posted by: DLC | September 13, 2006 10:48 AM

I had a similar problem w/MCI years ago when they kept billing me for a cancelled cell phone account. I'd get a bill every few months or so, despite calling customer service each time and being assured my account was canceled and the balance was zero, and then finally got referred to irate collections people who insisted I owed them money. Same problem where MCI "no longer had my records" since turning my account over to collections. It took almost three years of phone calls, emails, store visits, and letters -- including a formal complaint to the FTC -- before I finally got this resolved.

Posted by: MCI sucks | September 13, 2006 10:52 AM

I had the same problems with Laurel Regional Hospital. Every time I used it, I would pay my copay, my insurance would pay the balance, and I would receive a bill from the hospital for either the copay or the insurance part of the payment. Every time I would call in and fax in payment receipts and/or insurance payment receipt, the hospital would promise to fix the problem, and EVERY time my account ended up with collections. Luckily collections people this hospital is working with are decent, and once I fax them proof of payment, they would leave me alone. I will never again use Laurel Regional Hospital.

Posted by: Tracy | September 13, 2006 11:21 AM

I got a bill from AT&T a veiw years ago for an old phone number. It was basically one long-distance call. I called AT&T and they found that the call was made after I disconnected the line. They credited my "account" for the amount.

Next month, I got a bill showing a $0.12 credit. Every month since then, I've been getting a "bill" showing the credit. Costing them so much to show the credit. I love it.

Posted by: Non debtor | September 13, 2006 11:39 AM

Non debtor, I think the same thing happened to me a few years ago with an AT&T credit. It was for $.07!

When AT&T used to send out ever-increasing checks to people in order to lure them back after they had switched to another phone company, I saw the writing on the wall. What a screwy way to do business! I thus sold all my AT&T stock -- many months before the big price drop in the crash of 2000.

Posted by: Ann | September 13, 2006 11:48 AM

My doctor's office has been pulling a fast one regarding billing. They charge my insurance for lab fees for lab work that is done offsite and billed independently. So my insurance pays for it. Then my doctor's office is supposed to pay the lab, but instead they hold the payment for months, and I get a bill from the lab showing payment due and a letter from my insurance saying they won't pay the lab (which also billed my insurance) because they've already paid the claim.

I had to raise hell with my doctor's office after this happened twice and I had to waste my time making calls all around to figure out what was going on. I'll bet that, in addition to getting the interest on that money they hold for months before paying their bills, they also just hope tha you the patient will not pay attention and will pay the lab bill rather than investigate the situation. I had to switch insurance plans, and if this happens with my new insurance, I will drop my doctor and send her a letter telling her that although she is a fine physician, her business practices are dishonest.

Posted by: MLC | September 13, 2006 11:54 AM

Oh, yes. Ditech.com. We didn't even know we were working with them at first. We just called our current mortgage company to refinance our home. They own Ditech, and had that company deal with us. At first we were assured this would only take a few weeks as they have all the information they needed. Wrong! It took 3 months. Every time I called to find out what was going on, my calls were ignored or misdirected. I ended up calling the customer service rep's supervisor's supervisor every hour for three days before I got some service. I had to use multiple phones because I thought they started ignoring my calls from the typical number. Then at the signing, I noticed they had my social security number wrong. We signed everything, with corrections to the SSN, only to discover they lost the paperwork and we had to do it all over again. When I found this out, I gave them the corrected SSN and they promised they'd get it right. Wrong. We went through the same no-response, no-called, might-as-well-be-in-oblivion routine until the time came to sign the new batch of paperwork. They still had the SSN wrong.

After it was finished, I noticed the first statement still had a bad SSN. This would be a problem come tax time. I corrected them with each statement for 6 months. I sent in a special SSN correction form twice. I spoke to supervisors, I spoke to the regular Joes who answer the phone tree. Nothing helped. Then I got an answer: Turns out that once it is in the database, it can't be edited. WTF? How is that possible? Surely someone has write access to that field. It took a threat of lawsuit to get it corrected.

Posted by: Never Again | September 13, 2006 12:01 PM

An orthopedic practice in Vienna billed my insurance $70 for a flimsy neoprene knee (patella) support wrap that was handed to me by the doc at the end of an appointment. My insurance classified the item as "medical supplies" and applied a reduced rate of $54 to my deductible, so the doctors sent me a bill for that amount. Two weeks ago I found the neoprene item on Froogle for $4 and sent the practice a check for $10, along with a letter suggesting that I should have been billing them for wearing the item with a monster logo for the practice to the gym for several weeks. They deposited the check, though I have yet to see a paid-off bill.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | September 13, 2006 12:31 PM

I once was the victim of a DMV mishap that caused all sorts of headaches. When I got my drivers license renewed a few years ago, they put the wrong zip code in their computer, listing me as living in Montgomery County, VA (instead of Fairfax, where I was actually living). They fixed it on the license, but not in the database, because a few months later, I recieved a personal property tax bill from Blacksburg for my car.
I explained that it must have been a simple DMV mishap, even faxed them a copy of my personal property return from Fairfax county, but to no avail. Even when I purchased a new car, I recieved a personal property tax bill from them for a car I had paid for in Fairfax.
After almost 13 months, I was finally able to resolve the issue (I hope) by faxing my car purchase bill of sale, my personal property statements from Fairfax, and even my insurance information, all showing that I had never lived anywhere near Blacksburg. Easily the most frustating experience of my life.

Posted by: Chris | September 13, 2006 12:43 PM

I posted this on John Kelly's chat two weeks ago. As of today, I STILL don't have DSL service, though MCI finally released our DSL line (they took a full 14 business days - ridiculous given that I'm simply trying to move to the company that took them over). When I told Verizon this, the first two clueless billing reps I talked to told me I'd have to re-submit a new order for service, even though they'd already sent me all the equipment and other billing reps I talked to earlier told me they'd hold the order until the line was free. I insisted this wasn't the case to the clueless/lazy reps, and after finally talking to a manager they confirmed I didn't have to start over and re-submitted my original order for activation. This has been the biggest headache I can remember in some time. Here was my original post:

La La Land: John, can I vent? We had DSL service through MCI and got a letter a couple of months ago saying it would be terminated as of August 15 and we should contact Verizon about getting service through them (since they bought out MCI of course). So I did just that - on August 15th the new equipment showed up and I got it installed and running. I got a call a day later from Verizon saying there was already a DSL account on our line and it needed to be removed or our order would be cancelled in 15 days. I was a bit befuddled since Verizon took over MCI but they told me I needed to call MCI about it. I did, and unlike what the letter said our service was still active, so they terminated it. We could then no longer connect (as we were connecting to Verizon through MCIs connection) so I called Verizon back and they said they still couldn't activate the account until MCI physically disconnected the line on their end (not just the signal). So I called MCI back and was told the order to do that was in but it would take up to 14 business days. 7 business days later I checked again and it still hadn't been released, but a very helpful MCI employee told me that in Virginia, MCI and Verizon are in the same building, and MCI's DSL service was contracted through Verizon, and it was actually a Verizon technician that would be the one that would perform the disconnection. So now, going on 2 weeks+, we have no internet, b/c we followed MCIs advice to get Verizon since they were dropping our service, and we can't get Verizon until MCI releases our DSL line, even though they own MCI and a Verizon technician is the one that needs to do it. AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGG!!!!!

John Kelly: Man, that stinks. I got a headache just reading it. I can only imagine how you feel.

Posted by: Rosslyn | September 13, 2006 12:54 PM

I had a similar problem with a city of College Park parking ticket almost 20 years ago. I received a ticket fopr my parents' car on August 31, 1987. Then in 1988 I received a notice that my ticket from August 31, 1988 was never paid. My parents had that car in MAINE that week. The City could never show me a copy of the ticket because it didn't exist, nor would they remove it from my account. I contested the ticket with evidence my parents were in Maine. It was rejected! Over the 30 day limit for appeal. I was stupid and let that go to collection before paying it! That showed up on my credit report as 180 days overdue for 7 years.

In the 1990s I dealt with similar parking ticket issues in Montgomery County, but in 1999 received a letter and check from them (both photocopied and in my files) that they erroneously charged me multiple times for the same two parking meter offenses. I mistakenly thought that I'd received tickets that kids ripped off my car.

I received a ticket from Washington, DC 3 years ago for parking in a no parking zone while my car was in front of my house (the other side of the block was posted no parking). We all appealed the tickets en masse, but the judge rejected them claiming our side of the block was posted and the photos showing otherwise were false.

I do not believe that states and city parking enforcement should have the right to submit data to your credit report. It's simply too serious for an underpaid file clerk (and I write software for them, I know of what I'm saying) to be able to have access to that. I would like to see government intervention to dissallow this practice.

Posted by: Bethesdan | September 13, 2006 1:26 PM

I'll just add to the AT&T list. When I was in college at UMD, I cancelled my landline AT&T service after I bought my first cell phone with Cingular. For months and months I kept getting a bill for $.05. I even sent back a nickel in the reply envelope for kicks. It took about 3 calls before they understood that may account was 'cancelled' for almost half a year.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | September 13, 2006 3:07 PM

I got a credit card offer from First USA bank that gave me two options. Pay a low variable rate as long as they did not change it or get zero percent for 6 months and then pay a higher rate. I state I wanted 0 percent for 6 months on balance tranfers. They put me instead into the variable rate. I call and they said they would fix it. They strung me along for 4 additional months, kept telling me they would fix it. Then in the end some committee sent me a letter that said they would not fix the problem with no explanation. I never did business with them again. Unethical business practice.

Posted by: niceday | September 13, 2006 3:28 PM

I've had my share of Verizon ineptitude. I moved from Silver Spring, Maryland to Arlington, Virginia. In both locations, I had Verizon local service, but I switched long distance service -- ATT in MD and Sprint in VA. Nine months after moving to VA, my bill started showing almost $200 dollars in collect calls being accepted -- on my old, Maryland phone line!!! Seems they had reassigned the line to a guy with family in Jamaica and he would accept collect calls from them (generous!!!). And here's the confusing part - the long distance carrier charging me for the collect class was MCI. I'd never been an MCI customer! The guy with my old phone line wasn't an MCI customer either!

So I call MCI to complain. Not their fault, they say, because it's Verizon routing the charges to me because I have that phone line. So I call Verizon to complain. Not their fault, they say, because MCI shouldn't be charging for those calls. Somehow, the fact that they're billing me for charges on a phone line I no longer have didn't seem to register with the first 6 customer DISservice representatives I dealt with. They just kept say, "but it's your name on the account."

I stupidly paid the first bill that I got, not wanting to have credit problems with Verizon. After two months and countless hours on the phone dealing with Verizon's nitwits, they refunded my account. But did they send me a check for the $200? Noooooo. They just kept my money an deducted my monthly bill from the credit until I owed them money again. So they got to make interest off of my money and never did admit the problems had been their fault....

Posted by: belgie | September 13, 2006 3:56 PM

Years ago, I began receiving bills out of the blue from MCI, which was not and had never been my long-distance carrier. They were for $1.96, and a note on the bill said that amounts less than $5.00 need not be paid and could be carried over to the next bill. So, I didn't pay, and bill continued to come like clockwork for another year and a half. I got some enjoyment from the thought of how much MCI spent billing me for $1.96 that I didn't owe in the first place.

Posted by: JR | September 13, 2006 4:10 PM

When I graduated high-school and started college, my father sold some investments to help me pay the outrageous tuition at my school. My father filed taxes later that year reflecting the sale of stock. Somehow my name was attached to the sale, although my father's SSN and name where the primary on the sale ticket. About 2 years ago I went to the bank to withdrawal some money for the week but was told that not only was my account empty, but I was overdrawn 22,500$. Picture this, 23 years old, making 25K a year and my bank tells me I am overdrawn by 22.5K... Apparently, the IRS had decided that I owed back taxes and penalties for the sale of the stock and had placed a lien on my account to gather the funds. I never received a notice because my father was handling the paperwork on his end because his name was attached to the sale (he sent in letters to the irs as well as copies of his filings refuting the charges and thought it had been taken care of). Most of you, I know, are asking why the bank would authorize such a large withdrawal knowing that I didn't have NEARLY that much money in the account. Two words: new employee. The employee determined that because it was a lien from the federal govt. he/she should simply authorize the transaction without really looking at the account... Needless to say, I walked in to the bank, screamed my bloody head off, canceled my direct deposit from my employer and went to the branch located in my building's lobby. Every once in a while I will receive an irate letter from my old bank about how they cannot close the account until I authorize them to do so which, I believe has something like .34 in it. Every time I tell them I will never step foot in one of their branches again. What happened to the money in my account? A year ago the IRS removed the lien, sent me a letter of apology, but my bank refused to refund the overdraft charges associated with the checks I had written, totaling 685$. Never mind all of the service charges I had to pay when my rent, electrical, gas and car bills all bounced...

Posted by: J | September 13, 2006 4:12 PM

When I moved from Arlington to Alexandria, I received an erroneous $300 bill from Comcast. I called Comcast almost daily for weeks and weeks to get it cleared up, each time escalating to a manager, talking to a different rep, re-expaining the situation over and over and over. It finally got resolved - about 2 months later, all the while late fees mounting. But that was not as bad as when I had to deal with the DC police dept after my car was stolen and then recovered a week later. It was still in the DMV system as stolen for 2 months before I knew it, and when I tried to get it fixed, all I got was "not my problem" - I did learn one useful bit of advice, however. Whenever working with a customer service rep, or a police officer - always get their full name, contact number or badge number, and their supervisor's name. Comes in handy!!

Posted by: Alexandria | September 13, 2006 4:19 PM

A few years ago I switched to MCI long distance because I was told by an MCI rep that their calling card rate was 25 cents a minute, much lower than other carriers. I confirmed the details of the plan and accepted. Well about a month later my long distance was turned off the day after my bill was due, I hadn't ever been late with payment and had mailed the bill well within a time frame for it to reach MCI on time. So, when I had to make a long distance call from home I used the calling card, thinking, as I had been told, the charge would be the same as the per minute rate anyway. (25 cents/min). But when I got the bill the cost averaged about 60 cents a minute. I wrote MCI and complained. I sent in payment for what I was quoted. 100 minutes x .25 cents a minute. I received a letter back saying all charges were legitimate and I had to pay the bill in full, which was down to about $75 at this point. I mailed a couple more letters, still to no avail. So I decided to go on the FCC web site and report the fradulent marketing practices. Obviously I'd been lied to about the cost of my service. Within days I had a letter from MCI's office of general counsel vehemently apologizing for the error, promising to flog the person who gave me inaccurate information about the long distance program and best of all, erasing the debt in full.

Posted by: Vicki | September 13, 2006 4:32 PM

We had a similar issue with MCI as that described in this article. My credit report showed a $107 bill had been referred to a collection agency from an account I had years ago. I am absolutely 100% sure I completely paid off this account. This is a mistake on MCI's part.

When I saw this on my credit report, we were in the process of buying a new house. I called MCI, desperate to clear this up as we tried to get financing on the house, but MCI could not even tell us why they thought we owed the money. They said they did not have the records any more. The collection agency just say "pay the money" and I would have if that would have erased it from my credit report, but it would not have helped us in time.

I had no way to fight the charge because I couldn't get the specifics as to what it was.

This being sent to collection has cost of tens of thousands of dollars. It screwed up my credit report enough to greatly effect our ability to get a good rate.

I know that corporations make mistakes all the time. But MCI seems like the worst to me--how is it that they can send my account to collection and destroy my credit rating but not even be able to tell me what the charge is for?

Posted by: Joe | September 13, 2006 6:05 PM

What is it with phone accounts and ID theft? I had someone use my ID to open a Verizon account, which that person then didn't pay so when it went to collection, it showed up on my credit record. I finally got it cleared up (details of the ordeal here: http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/dont_mess_with_taxes/2006/01/the_real_me.html) but what a mess!

Posted by: Kay | September 14, 2006 12:24 PM

looks like the "close paren" became part of my URL above, thereby invalidating it. So trying again -- http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/dont_mess_with_taxes/2006/01/the_real_me.html

Posted by: Kay | September 14, 2006 12:29 PM

I have a similar situation with MCI now. I had their service, switched back to Verizon and cancelled MCI. The problem for switching back was related to billing. In the course of about two or three weeks my wife and I got a bill for about one months service, and then a second bill for about two months service. We paid the first bill, and assumed we paid late when we saw the second bill come in. we paid the second minus the payment for the prior month. MCI appeared to disregard the 1st payment, and said we owed the entire 2nd bill or our service would be cut. that did not make sense because why would they send a second bill as though the first was paid. To keep our service we paid the entire second bill. We are talking $125-150 tops. That Friday, the due date for the second bill which was paid previously, we realize our phone has been disconnected. We call MCI via our cell phone, and are told we owe another payment. My wife handles this one and makes the stated balance payment before going to work, about $50. we just want the phone on and will resolve the issue later. We come home from work and notice the phone is still not back on. We call customer service and the most shocking thing is we are speaking with folks in the Philippines! Decent English skills, but cannot answer or provide any services beyond what's on the script. She can see the payments in the system that we should be current, but cannot flip the switch to turn the phone back on. It takes 3-days to get our phone back on. We lose our house phone from Friday to Monday. The very next business day, I call Verizon to switch back. I'm switched over by that Friday or the following Monday. its my understanding that Verizon cannot switch you or will no switch you if you owed on your previous bill. Now out the blue over a year later, I get a phone call from MCI and eventually calls on behalf of MCI stating I owe $60-70. I cannot fathom how. I explain after the last scenario we reviewed our bills and realized we essentially paid a month in advance to have service restored. Yet we switched service before that month was more than 5 days old. I ask for evidence I owe that amount and I get an un-itemized bill for that amount. i could make up a bill and send it to someone. It has not appeared on my credit report. But I have literally cursed these folks out 2 times for calling my house on this issue, and not sending me any backup info.

Posted by: Bad MCI | September 19, 2006 12:37 PM

In 2003 we paid our final bill to MCI and switched to Verizon. A few months later a letter from MCI arrived stating that we owed $100 for the final payment, which we had already paid. After numerous dealings with evasive reps I was able to get my bank to fax directly to MCI the copy of the cancelled check that MCI cashed. Not even an apology but at least they left us alone.

Its now 2006 and we received a letter from MCM (Midland Credit Management)stating that we owe money to MCI again. We dispute it but they dont care. MCI no longer has our records but so what, we kept our records. We told the MCM rep that we had copies of our paid bill and the man had the nerve to tell us that 'anyone can forge documents so it means nothing to me'. This was late August. We sent certified mail to him asking for details of the original MCI bill but it is now the beginning of Oct and no answer yet. I checked the credit report and it is on the report. How helpless do we feel. What can be done?

Posted by: MCI Hater | October 4, 2006 8:32 AM

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