Last night, my bride showed me an email my father-in-law had forwarded. A lot of our US mail is delivered to their home, and while it's mostly spam, this one looked a little different.
'What's this - hey, that looks like a credit collection notice. What the hell?' It was indeed, for $76.83. I repeat - what the hell? I haven't lived in the states for well over a year now, who the hell can I owe money to?
So I call the company.
Me: Hiya. Says here I owe you money.
Operator Yes sir. $76.83.
Me: Unfortunately, I have no idea who you or your company are. Can you help me out here?
Operator No problem sir. This bill is for the cable company from when you lived at 483 Lamkin Road, Harlem Georgia.
Me: Huh. Imagine that. The only problem I can see is that I've never lived in Harlem, GA.
Operator: You didn't live there from February through October, 2000?
Me: Now that you mention it, nope. I moved to San Francisco in 1998. In fact, I have my 2000 tax returns which proves it.
Operator: Do you know anybody who's lived in Harlem?
Me: Hmm. Hmm.
Now picture the light bulb above my head. Picture it going on. Picture my hand slapping my forehead a la Moe Howard.
Me: Can you tell me who lived at that address?
Operator: No problem sir, I can run a public records search.
Me: Tell me if there's a 'Padgett' listed.
Operator: I have several listed... 'Padgett, Robin A... '
Me: Stop. That's the one. That's my sister.
Ain't this swell? Somehow, I've been listed as the owner of my beloved sister's cable bill. Funny - I don't remember signing up for this. It's like a little present she got for me. That keeps on giving, 5 years later.
Me: So knowing that I can prove I was across the continent at the time, what are my options here?
Operator: Well, you can dispute the charges.
Me: Ok, I dispute them. Now what?
Operator: You'll have to file an 'identity theft' report with the police.
Me: Awesome. Let's do that. Oh hell - except the nearest police station is about 2,000 miles away, since I now live in a different country.
Operator: (laughing) Well, sir, that is a pickle. I can offer you a settlement - you pay $50, and we'll call it even. Nothing will go on your credit report.
Me: I pay $50, and then I can take the law into my own hands with my sister? No problem. Let's do that.
Operator: (by this point, she was my best friend) That works for us, sir.
I had to call my parents in Tennessee to get the latest phone number for my sister. Her numbers tend to be disconnected or rotate on a fairly regular basis, and it must have been two years since I've troubled myself to keep up. My sister, of course, was shocked and astonished that this could have happened. Yes, she listed me as a reference on the account, she immediately assured me, but that was all! Number A) I don't recall telling her she could list me as a reference, pretty much for this exact reason. Number B) Since when does a 'reference' become responsible for your bill? And Number Next) I can barely remember who I worked for 5 years ago, let alone the details of setting up a cable account. The quickness of the explanation was truly remarkable. Even halfway through my rant, I lost steam. No doubt she was still going to sleep the untroubled sleep of the innocent that night. The bill's paid, and my fifty bucks are gone. Yelling at her at this point is kinda like yelling at the leopard to get rid of those damned spots, won't you? I'll run a credit report and make sure there aren't any other surprises waiting for me. We went on to talk about the rest of the family, and she promised to send me pictures of my brother in highschool so that I can share them with the internet (since mine are all in storage and he demanded I prove how goofy he looked.) She laughed and said that's what the internet is for, embarassing family, eh?
You know what? I guess she's right.