THE CONSUMER CONNECTION
Neither a borrower nor lender be?
I’ve often told people to think twice from the store account records, Ms. X cannot
before loaning family and friends money blame the store for assuming she was still
or allowing them to use their credit cards. legally and happily linked to the account.
In my years of problem-solving experi- That means it would be Ms. X’s fault for not
ence, I have yet to find any story with a reporting the dispute and severing the friend
happy ending in such financial deals. from the account.
The borrowers are typically Another point: Did the
responsible for the payments, friend accept the credit-card
yet often pay late or default on offer using Ms. X’s Social
the loans. Here is a real and very Security number and/or her
sad case I recently worked on name? If so, this can mean iden-
that shows what can go wrong tity theft, which is a felony. If
when you try to help out a that’s the case, I suggested, she
“trusted” friend who lives 1,500 should contact her state attorney
miles away. I will call the general and the local police
victim“Ms. X.” department where the friend
Ms. X was a responsible lives to discuss the matter and
consumer with an excellent to file a police report.
credit rating until she added a I also suggested that Ms. X
friend’s name to her department David Horowitz challenge the store or credit-
store credit account. Her friend card issuer to prove who
defaulted on her payments, but accepted the card. There should
the store didn’t notify Ms. X. When she be some record to see who responded to the
found out, she closed the account immedi- offer and where the offer or statements were
ately—but too late to recoup thousands sent. This can help Ms. X prove that she was
of dollars that was lost and had to be paid to not responsible for the charges.
the store. When the investigation is complete, she
Now Ms. X has learned that the friend should contact all three credit-reporting agen-
accepted a new credit card from the same cies and ask them how to dispute the negative
store, using Ms. X’s Social Security number mark that now appears on her record. Ms. X
and positive credit history. The friend soon will have to challenge all three reports in
defaulted again, this time leaving Ms. X with a writing. But the documentation she collects
$10,000 debt. She came to me asking who was should help her prove that her identity was
to blame, and how she could repair her dam- stolen and that she was not responsible for the
aged credit record and get her money back. charges on the card. Also, because her
First of all, I instructed her to tell the col- address was not on the billing statement, she
lection agency that the credit report is in error should be able to prove that there was no way
and she was officially disputing the matter. that she knew about the account or that the
She also needed to remind them that under payments were in default.
the law, they could no longer contact her Finally, I told her to write letters of com-
while the case is being challenged. plaint to the owner or CEO of the department
I asked Ms. X some important questions store and to the card issuer to complain about
that could help her resolve this problem: this situation and how their lack of verifica-
After she closed the credit-card account the tion ruined her credit. I suggested that she ask
first time, did she remove her friend’s name them to come to her defense by writing an
from the account? Did she tell the store or acknowledgement of their error and helping
credit-card issuer that the friend was no remove the debt from her credit records.
longer listed on the account? And most obvi- The most awful part of this whole decep-
ously, did she report that the Social Security tion is that Ms. X will have learned a lesson
number linked to the account belonged to Ms. that might haunt her for the rest of her life. C
AM Y CAN TRELL
Ask David Horowitz
Iuse Web-based Microsoft Network
(MSN) Hotmail for e-mail. I recently
lost everything in my Inbox—a year’s
worth of messages. I thought it was
due to a server error and could retrieve
it, but they said I’m out of luck. Is it a
failure on their part? Should they compensate me for my loss?
C.D., was it a server crash? Or had
your account become dormant? MSN
instructs Hotmail users to keep their
account active by logging in at least
once every 30 days or messages will
MSN said if the server crashes,
messages may not be recoverable. They
do not keep backups of old messages.
(And remember, no storage system is
100 percent reliable!)
It was not their responsibility to
protect a year’s accumulation of your
messages. Hotmail actually warns users
to save important messages to their PC
They don’t owe you a refund
because you haven’t paid anything.
Hotmail is a free service, making
money on extras such as additional
storage or other MSN-based products
and services. In this case, you got what
you paid for.
X, and not to the friend?
Also, whose name was on the account:
hers, her friend’s, or both? Where were the Costco member David Horowitz is a leading
bills being sent? I explained that the answers consumer advocate. His two-hour national
to these questions would point to whomever radio program airs Sundays on Talk Radio
was at fault. Network. For stations and times, check the
If she did not remove her friend’s name radio page on www.fightback.com.
To ask David Horowitz a question,
log on to www.fightback.com
and “Ask David.” He will personally
respond to your problem if you follow
the instructions printed on his Web
site. (Costco members receive a dis-
count off the normal fee.) Questions
and answers of the greatest interest
to Costco members will be used in
this column with the permission of
the contributor, and will be posted
© 2004 Fight Back! Inc. All rights reserved.
2 The Costco Connection • NOVEMBER 2004