This senior created her problem and is determined to fix it herself

Faye Borowsky allowed her son-in-law to prepay for a rental car on her credit card. Then she forgot about it.

When she got her credit card bill, she made a critical mistake that has caused her months of anguish.

She asked us to help her help herself, and you would be surprised to find out how she got herself out of this bind.

“When the charge came on my bill I disputed the charge because I forgot all about it,” she told us. “Once I realized the charge was correct — being a senior, I completely forgot — I reversed the disputed charge and paid my bill.”

That’s when the trouble started — a collection agency began to harass her son-in-law for payment. Borowsky sent in paperwork proving she had paid the charge on her credit card bill. But that wasn’t enough to thwart the collectors.

Frustrated with the collection agency’s relentless pursuit of money she already had paid, she turned to our advocates — surprisingly, not for help with advocating her case, but for contact information for Budget Car Rental (which is owned by Avis) so she could advocate for herself.

Once our advocate relayed the information to Borowsky, she got to work by contacting representatives at Avis/Budget. Unfortunately, she ran into a brick wall.

“I’ve been in contact with a nice woman who keeps telling me that I need to get a reversal from CitiBank,” Borowsky said. “I have provided two letters from CitiBank noting the reversal and stating that the funds are in their bank. In desperation I once again called CitiBank and was told I have two letters about the reversal, the funds are in their bank and [Budget] should know how to collect it. This is just one big circle.”

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Borowsky received a note from the Budget representative that they were close to resolving the issue once they got the money from their bank. “I believe the last note I wrote to them (which was a little pushy) made them look into it more closely,” Borowsky said.

Borowsky’s note read:

Hi, if possible I need to have a conversation with your [credit department]. We have sent you two letters from CitiBank stating that this has been reversed and the money is sitting in your bank. I spoke with CitiBank this afternoon (because I am so frustrated) to ask once again about “reversal”. It’s been done. I don’t understand how your collections department can’t get the money. That just seems silly. I cannot be the only person to ever dispute a charge and then reverse and pay it. I’d like someone to explain why this is so complicated. I believe the ball is in the collections department’s court.

Fortunately, either the last note did the trick, or Budget was able to confirm that they received the funds. Regardless, Borowsky was notified that Budget received their payment from CitiBank, and the rental company notified the collection agency to discontinue pursuit of the funds.

The important takeaway from this is that credit card chargebacks should be used only as a last resort and only if you are certain that you didn’t make the charge. In this case, Borowsky complicated matters by charging back the funds, creating a firestorm of funds pursuit and reversal.

Regardless, we are pleased that Borowsky was able to advocate for herself.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • Alan Gore

    Collection agencies should be required to validate debts before being able to collect them. This would include rechecking periodically to ensure that a debt is still owed after specified periods of time.

  • MarkKelling

    Well, son-in-law should have paid for his own car rental. Then no issue would have occurred.

    OK, I know not everyone has perfect credit or can even get a credit card and car rental places don’t like taking debit cards except for final payment of the rental. And mom-in-law should have made a note somewhere to remind her to expect the charge. At least it worked out OK.

  • I agree. I’ve actually had collections come after me for my sisters school loans. I didn’t even know she had them! Fortunately they backed off fairly quickly.
    I’ve also had collections leave voice mails regarding a neighbor. I told them I was going to turn them in for violating the law.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    Unless the cc company had sent the money to the rental agency and the rental agency purchased the debt back from the collection agency, it was a valid debt.

  • jsn55

    Good job on this story, Mark. It’s so refreshing to read about a consumer who is willing to take responsibility and is willing to fix the issue. I absolutely LOVED Faye’s letter to them … little wonder it got action, anyone could understand her message. Faye’s my hero!

  • jsn55

    If this is the viewpoint from a “legal” perspective, no wonder this country is in so much trouble. Nobody cares if it’s a ‘valid debt’, it’s a PROBLEM, and it needs to be fixed.

  • jsn55

    Such compassion and understanding you show, Mark. I surely hope your life is perfect and you never have any problems.

  • MarkKelling

    I hope you never experience most of the things I have been through in life. Maybe it has made me a grouchy old man. But it sure has made me self sufficient.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    On the point that collections agencies should have to validate debts, it would not have changed anything in this case, as it was a valid debt until the money was remitted to the car rental company. There’s nothing in the email except a few adjectives to show that the collections agency did anything wrong. Contacting someone who steals services (and that is what LW and her son-in-law did with the dispute) is perfectly fine. Just because some people have told a story about overzealous collections issues doesn’t make all collections a problem.

  • Alan Gore

    If you look at the article, it says the collection agency hassling began AFTER the bill had already been paid. But because the account had already gone to collection by that time, the collection agency kept trying to collect on what was now a zombie debt. Had agencies been required to recheck, say, monthly on the validity of the debt, this would not have occurred.

    Let me guess: such a requirement would place an ‘undue burden’ on the collection industry and most agencies would have to go out of business. Well in that case, good goddamn riddance.

  • joycexyz

    How in the world would they think you’re responsible for your sister’s loans??? Any warm body? Possible intimidation? And messages regarding a neighbor? I can only hope you did file complaints.

  • joycexyz

    Yes! The letter was firm without being nasty, and outlined the steps the company needed to take. Good for her!

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    If you read the article, the credit card company had the funds, not the rental car agency.

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