Yesterday, I attempted to pay a property insurance bill that was coming due. I called the insurance company. “I’d like to make a payment on my property insurance,”
“We don’t take payments over the phone,” She replied.
“So how should I make payment?” I asked.
“Well, you can come into the office or you can make payment on-line,” the woman informed me. Driving to her office was definitely out of the question since her office was at the other end of the county. With credit/debit card in hand I went online to make payment. There I learned that the website of the insurance company did not take credit or debit cards. You could only pay if you gave your bank routing and bank account number. It seemed strange that an insurance company would not take a debit card. It also unnerved me that entering my bank account number gave direct access to my bank account. I needed to pay the bill so I went ahead and entered my financial information. To protect myself, I transferred funds so that just the proper amount was in my account. That next day I looked into my account to confirm that they received the payment. That payment had not been taken out but some money was missing from my account. When I called the bank I learned that two unauthorized items came through, yet, the insurance payment did not come through. Frustrated that I could not force the insurance company to send the payment through I focused on stopping the unauthorized items.
As I thought back over the years, I remembered the frustration in attempting to pay off my mortgage. That was my Christmas gift to myself, I wrote a check to the mortgage company for the full amount of the remaining balance. That made me feel better than any Christmas gift I could have received. Several weeks into January I received the check back from the mortgage company saying that the check was short several hundred dollars. Frustrated that I had not achieved my goal of paying off my mortgage by the December year-end, I rewrote the check for the proper amount. A month later it came back again saying it was a few dollars short. This went on for four months. I could not force them to keep the check. “I’ll write another check for the difference.” But they refused.
That was over ten years ago but negative items still pop up on my credit report that I was four months late making my mortgage payment. I didn’t realize until I went to finance my car loan how that item could cause my interest rate to rise.
Then I thought back to the notice from the IRS that my identity had been stolen. Before that I wondered who was in charge of things, when the ink on the receipts I stored for my year-end taxes had worn off by the time I needed to file my returns. It also seemed strange that instead of me and my neighbor both filing taxes in Atlanta, (like we always had in the past) one return went to Atlanta, while the other return went to Austin. I was told that the returns can go to any office now. That sounded pretty wild for a business operation. Again, I wondered who is in charge of things or who is behind the curtains operating the levers.
I headed to the IRS office early in the morning thinking that I would beat the crowd. The office doesn’t open until 8:30 but when I got there at 7:30 the line was already around the corner. As I talked to people in line, everyone was there for the same reason, identity theft. One woman told me she got there the day before at 1:00 p.m. but the line was so long, they told her to come back that next morning. “What is going on?” I wondered. Finally, when I spoke with the representative he gave me a slip of paper and told me to file my return, and if I owed to pay, by mail to some address in the Midwest.
Now, I never sympathized with the tax protesters who claimed that paying taxes was unconstitutional, but something about this was not right. “My personal information that is in the IRS computers has been compromised and there is nothing you can do,” I confirmed. “Now, you want me to send a payment to some address even though a return has been filed in my name? Is there a person I can talk to?”
“Nope, just wait for a reply.”
“Well then, I guess that solves everything.” A part of me was ready to go, I had spent half the morning and gotten nowhere. “Wait a minute,” another part of me wanted some answers.
A part of me is saddened. I know how to live within a budget and sacrifice to get the things I really want. But, if my financial institutions worked with me I could be so much more successful.