From the time we were first married, my husband and I tried to be responsible with our finances. We recently updated our will, and we have always tried to avoid debt as much as possible. Following the “How to Get Out of Debt with the Debt Snowball Plan” developed by Dave Ramsey really gave us a direction. His book, The Total Money Makeover, is an excellent resource. We paid off our student loans, our truck, and finally, our mortgage. Knowing this, it may surprise you to learn that I was once the target of a collection agency due to online payment problems. I shudder to remember how stressful that situation was for me. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does, this is what worked to finally resolve the dilemma in my favor.
Online Payment Confirmed, or so I Thought
A few years ago, I had my annual mammogram, and everything was normal, thank goodness. Later, I received notice that my insurance company had covered every expense except for a small charge from the imaging company. When I received the bill from the imaging company, I decided to use their new online bill pay service. After I paid the bill with my credit card using the company’s new bill pay website, I wrote down the confirmation number and the tracking number. I filed the bill away, thinking all was paid for. I was even sent a confirmation email verifying my payment.
The next month, I received another notice from the same company, with another bill statement. When I spoke to a customer service representative, the person told me they had no record of my payment. I gave them the confirmation number, the tracking number, a copy of the verification email, and told the representative that the charge had been posted to my credit card.
The company still refused to acknowledge my payment, so I sent a copy of my credit card statement to them, along with a letter which included the confirmation and tracking numbers, as well as the verification email once again. The next month, I received another statement, made another phone call, and was told that if I did not pay the bill, they would turn the matter over to a collection agency. Even though I had sent the documentation to the mailing address listed on their bill, the company did not acknowledge receiving any documentation from me.
Bring on the Better Business Bureau
I then contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB). I had heard of the organization, but never knew much about it, and I wondered if it would be able to help me resolve my situation. When I filed my complaint, I had to specify the state, which was North Carolina, and work with the BBB office in that state. Fortunately, I had kept track of the dates I had contacted the imaging company, and had written down every step I had taken. I had a record of which documents I had sent, everything. I composed a letter to the BBB, and included all of the relevant information, supporting documents, and a copy of my credit card statement. Then I emailed everything to them, and they let me know they were reviewing my case.
A Collection Agency? Are You Serious?
A short time later, I received a nasty phone call from a collection agency. When I tried to explain my situation, I received a rude reply. I know that collection agencies would not be successful if they were polite and kind. That is not part of their job description. It was still very unpleasant. I was so upset.
Finally, a Miracle!
I then placed another call to the imaging company. At first they refused to discuss my account, since it had been sent to a collection agency. Suddenly, a miracle happened. The customer service representative had me repeat my name, then said, “Just a minute while I get my manager.” Was I finally going to be listened to? The manager got on the line, and told me my situation had been resolved. He apologized, but then told me that all I would have needed to do was send verification of payment on my credit card statement! AAARRGH! I confirmed with him that the incident would not affect my credit rating. Finally, I thanked him and ended the call, glad to be done with it.
Lessons Learned From My Online Payment Problems
Thank you, Better Business Bureau! If anyone ever asks me about you, I will tell them that, yes, you are effective. I did write a letter to them expressing my thanks, and after reflecting on the situation, here are some of the lessons I learned:
- If you have time, pay medical bills by phone. Your payment will post immediately. Also, sometimes insurance companies don’t post payments right away. If you pay by phone, you can confirm that the amount you owe on your bill and the amount the company has listed in your account match. In addition, BONUS, sometimes if you pay your bill in full over the phone, you can get a discount. I get a 10% discount each time I pay my usual provider over the phone. I always ask if a discount is available when I work with other medical providers. It never hurts to ask.
- Write everything down, including confirmation and tracking numbers, (even though it didn’t help in my case). Also make note of dates and times you speak with customer service representatives. This will be extremely helpful if you ever need to document your interactions and the efforts you have made to resolve the situation.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau if the dispute does not get resolved in a timely manner. I probably waited too long to contact them, and in retrospect I wish I had contacted them a lot sooner.
What About You?
That’s it! That is the whole sorry tale of my online payment problems. I hope you never need to go through anything like it. However, if you do, I hope you will be able to put the lessons I learned to good use. Do you have an online payment horror story to share? Do you need to vent about it? Please feel free to let me know about it, especially if it will help you feel better. If you like what you’ve read here on my blog, please consider subscribing. Have a great week, everyone!