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The check apparently was in mail, but . . .

FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,197,421

Updated: February 26, 2012 1:53AM



Dear Fixer: I have been missing a payment of $103.51 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois since May 1. They claimed to have issued a check for this, yet they admit that it was never cashed. I have called at least six times regarding this but cannot get any results.

The payment was related to a medical visit I had April 25 with my gastroenterologist. The original charge for the visit was $340 and $236.60 was paid by Medicare.

Ernest Magnus, Northfield

Dear Ernest: The Fixer was happy to try to shake loose your refund. We spoke with Mary Ann Schultz of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, and she got on it right away. The insurance giant apparently did mail the check back in May — but, of course, you didn’t receive it. We’re still not sure why the wheels turned so slowly after that, but a new check was issued, and you got your money a few days later.

Pay your bills wisely

Speaking of billing and payment problems …

Having charges for apps, games and other downloads sent straight to your cell phone seems like a time-saver, but the folks at Consumers Union — the nonprofit that publishes Consumer Reports magazine – warn that you could end up with a headache later if there’s a problem with your bill.

That’s because cell phone companies have their own service contracts, and the bills are not governed by federal protections for purchases made with credit or debit cards. (In those cases, there’s a clear mechanism for disputing an incorrect charge.)

Consumers Union’s analysis of different wireless contracts found that consumers’ rights in a dispute can vary from carrier to carrier and explanations may be missing or vague.

Consumers Union is pressing for more consumer rights in this growing area of billing. Until then, be careful.

And this bill wasn’t even his

Longtime Fixer column reader Mike Mannino wants to warn his fellow readers about an overly aggressive bill-collecting outfit. Mike moved downstate and got a new cell phone. Since then, he’s been barraged with calls from bill collectors looking for at least two people who used to have his new number.

Around Thanksgiving, Mike got a call from a “Rebecca” who was looking for one of these people. Her message claimed it was an “urgent” matter involving a restraining order and that she needed a response within 48 hours. Then she left a number for Mike to call if she had reached him in error. He was about to call it until he checked her phone number online.

There, he found a pile of recent complaints about a bill collector that harasses people for incorrect debts. One consumer said she was harassed for a delinquent payday loan that couldn’t possibly have been hers, as she was only 15 years old at the time. Others said they were threatened with court actions for debts that weren’t theirs.

Mike smartly decided to ignore “Rebecca.” Sounds like a good idea to us.

Consumers have the right under federal law to not be harassed by bill collectors. Abusive scare tactics should be reported to the attorney general of your state and to the Federal Trade Commission. For more info on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, go to FTC.gov and search for “debt collection FAQs.”



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