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Jewish World Review Jan. 8, 2001 / 13 Teves, 5761

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Consumer Reports


An 8-year-old unpaid bill


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- DEAR BRUCE: I really try to have good credit. I pay my bills on time and have never had a problem. Recently I applied for a mortgage and found out that there was a bill for a cellular service that I supposedly didn't pay, would you believe, eight years ago. I suppose that I should keep my checks forever, but I didn't. I know that I had paid that bill, and up until now I have never received so much as a memo. I have had the same address, so it's not a matter of their not being able to find me. This collection agency was extremely rude, and they said that you have to pay us or we are going to screw up your credit. What are my alternatives? -- N.R., via e-mail

DEAR N.R.: If everything is as you have described it, I would tell these people that they are going to have to prove beyond any doubt that this bill was unpaid. If they say that it's up to you to prove that you paid it, I would tell them that would be fine if you had come to me right away -- I would have whipped out the canceled check and that would be the end. It's unreasonable to expect me to keep records for eight years on the off-chance that somebody is going to claim that a bill wasn't paid.

Do not allow yourself to be held hostage for the sake of your credit rating. That's of course what they gamble on. They threaten to louse up your credit and hope that you will fold like a cheap camera. Don't let that happen.

DEAR BRUCE: I took my 4-year-old SUV to the dealer and asked them to listen to the vibrations I get at about 40 miles per hour. I told them that I thought it was a wheel bearing but to please check it out. They came back after they checked it and said "the rear end needed to be rebuilt," and it would cost $1,300. They called and said that the car was ready but they wanted to replace the wheel bearing. I said no. I test-drove the vehicle, and the vibration was still there. They changed the wheel bearing, and, son-of-a-gun, the vibration went away.

I think I've been ripped off. The best they will do is to give me the free wheel bearing, which is peanuts. -- P.G., Minnetonka, Minn.

DEAR P.G.: You raise an interesting point here. If you can get competent testimony that the problem you had was a wheel bearing problem, not a rear end problem, you may have a case in small-claims court. I realize that this requires getting a couple of experts to testify for you, and it may not even be worth the time and effort that takes. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common thing, but on the mechanic's side, there are so many things that you can only find out by trial and error.

In this instance, since you told them that you felt it was a bearing problem, that was the first thing they should have checked.

DEAR BRUCE: I went to one of these companies that takes your package and puts it in an appropriate box and sends it out by one of the established courier services. I paid them in advance, and that was that. I found out a week or so later that my package never arrived. I went down to the services office, and they were gone. This was not part of a chain but an independent company, and they are nowhere to be found. That would not be of great consequence to me, except that I was now told that I can not make a claim with the courier service because I wasn't the shipper, the service was, and they are no longer around. Where do we go from here? -- L.N., via e-mail

DEAR L.N.: You have learned the hard way why it is often not wise to allow these services to ship for you. It is true they and only they can make a claim for the shipment. Having said that, it would seem to me that bringing this situation to the attention of the shipper should result in some kind of change in their policy on this one situation.

You should know that when you ship through a third party, they must make the claim. In most cases that is not a serious problem unless, for example, you were shipping something while on vacation. Let's say that you are in Hawaii, shipping to New Hampshire. If the stuff doesn't come you have to go back to the shipper in Hawaii to make the claim. If it's possible to ship under your own name, please do so.



Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).

Up

01/04/01: Accidents where the victim is responsible; health club heartache; laptop lunacy
01/03/01: Towing a new car; Must reveal my insurer's name?
12/28/00: Paying off a mortgage; Borrow yourself to prosperity?
12/26/00: My dad won't make a will
12/22/00: Most work-at-home offers cater to fools; trust deed investments
12/20/00: Your son needs tough love
12/18/00: Time to move on
12/14/00: Should we move retirement account?
12/13/00: U.S. notes can be the answer
12/08/00: Series EE, I, EE, I, Oh!
12/07/00: Paying mortgage twice a month instead of once
12/05/00: IRA vs. 401(k) investing; "gofer" gripes
12/01/00: Those credit card "checks"; non-compete agreements
11/30/00: Dumped by insurers when I did nothing wrong
11/27/00: Collision insurance is a waste?
11/23/00: Rent our house or sell it?
11/21/00: Fixed or adjustable rate?
11/20/00: Debt consolidation requires discipline
11/16/00: Ten-year fixed-rate mortgages
11/15/00: Higher interest means higher risk
11/10/00: Maybe a mobile home
11/09/00: At 21, save for today and tomorrow
11/08/00: Can I shelter my severance pay?
11/06/00: I don't wanna save for retirement!
11/03/00: Getting your money back is enough
10/31/00: Employment ads that make you pay
10/27/00: Reader takes on Bruce
10/26/00: Tell your kids to 'get real'
10/25/00: Don't pay 'the rascals'
10/23/00: Mickey Mouse tax steps
10/18/00: Economizing is not always wise
10/17/00: Young investors should start a Roth IRA
10/13/00: Maybe your prices are too low
10/12/00: Dealing with underground home oil tanks
10/11/00: Go with simple interest!
10/05/00: When property is worth more than the home
10/04/00: Put part of windfall in a Roth
10/03/00: Not paying taxes on interest from house sale
09/28/00: Protection by Medicaid and Medicare
09/27/00: Refinancing home without alerting crooks
09/26/00: Base investments on trust
09/25/00: Do we really need a will?
09/21/00: She took off with the car
09/20/00: Diversify your financial advisers?
09/18/00: How to inherit a house
09/15/00: The tax scoop on student loans
09/14/00: House buying only for the young?
09/13/00: No reason to give credit
09/11/00: Must I pay for my gifted child's college tuition?
09/08/00: We got bitten on purchase of dog
09/06/00: Pools can soak you
08/28/00: When the insurance company has an 'out'
08/25/00: When to buy a home
08/24/00: More 'interest' to live on
08/22/00: Paying for private school
08/18/00: Don't make huge down payments
08/16/00: IRAs for people with pensions
08/15/00: She doesn't deserve a break
08/11/00: Her shopping will ruin us
Yes, a contract means something
08/10/00: Her shopping will ruin us
08/09/00: A $1,500 car ... for $3,000
08/04/00: Time to take on the airlines
08/02/00: How can I retire at 62?
08/01/00: Cash in your savings bonds
07/28/00: Hold onto a mortgage under 7 percent
07/26/00: I want my partner to buy me out
07/25/00: Negotiate with your neighbor
07/21/00: How can I finally start saving soundly?
07/20/00: Where's my prize?
07/18/00: Getting out of an upside-down loan
07/13/00: Death is no escape
07/12/00: Multiplying dollars
07/10/00: Making sense of retirement investing
07/07/00: 'Bankruptcy does follow us around'
07/06/00: In which state should I file my income tax?
07/03/00: When to diversify assets
06/30/00: I'm buying my dad's house
06/29/00: How social security seniors should invest
06/27/00: Waiting before re-establishing credit
06/21/00: Insuring an older car
06/19/00: Take the money and run!
06/16/00: Utility company incursion
06/15/00: Insurance settlement is no bargain
06/13/00: A straightforward form of bankruptcy
06/08/00: In the computer's clutches
06/07/00: The trouble with tenants
06/05/00: Do I really need title insurance?
06/01/00: The truth about nursing home insurance
05/30/00: Keep mother-daughter loan simple
05/25/00: CDs for security, not investment
05/24/00: Battling with collection agency
05/22/00: Are callable CDs a waste of time?
05/18/00: Building a college fund
05/16/00: Even death brings no relief
05/15/00: House is 'worth' what's offered
05/12/00: Borrow from Mom and Dad?
05/11/00: Your heirs, your choice
05/09/00: Mutual-fund investigations
05/05/00: Credit cards vs. debit cards
05/04/00: Lawyer are good for something
05/03/00: The binding nature of contracts
05/02/00: You know you are in trouble when ...
05/01/00: Can primary residence be rented out?
04/28/00: A full refund after five years?
04/25/00: Get a homeowner's title policy!
04/24/00: Beware of errors in your favor
04/18/00: $10,000 limit on gifts
04/17/00: Invest or repay student loans?
04/13/00: Beware of Internet auctions
04/11/00: Six percent is a pittance
04/10/00: Married couples should share windfall
04/07/00: How not to blow an inheritance
04/06/00: Get genetic screening for Tay-Sachs
04/05/00: Beating the look-back period
04/04/00: Providing for retirement
04/03/00: Readers disagree on time shares
03/30/00: The road back to good credit
03/29/00: Pre-tax dollars in IRA taxed later
03/27/00: Gambling on business ventures
03/22/00: Old cars as hobby, not investment
03/20/00: Tax on foreign gifts?
03/16/00: How to buy government bonds
03/13/00: Buying treasury instruments
03/09/00: Subcontractors must pay S.S.
03/08/00: Real-estate lawyers are essential
03/07/00: Don't expect compensation for ideas
03/06/00: Too rich for a Roth IRA?
03/01/00: Is time-sharing a scam?
02/29/00: Paying for nursing-home care
02/28/00: Rely on a real-estate lawyer
02/23/00: Keeping child's money safe from divorce
02/16/00: Just how important is a 401(k)?
02/14/00: Shaky partnership buying house
02/11/00: Protection by residential zoning
02/09/00: Benefiting from a reverse mortgage
02/07/00: Ensure your insurability
02/04/00: Absurd community zoning laws
02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

©1999, NEA