7 On Your Side has received a lot of complaints from people who say FasTrak mistakenly charged them for crossing a bridge without paying the toll. Sometimes it's true, sometimes it's not, but an Oakland woman got a toll violation with a fine so big it would bankrupt a billionaire.
"We have determined you are responsible for the toll violation," said Lori Mazurek of Oakland, who often gets FasTrak violation notices. "I respond by writing a little note saying, 'We are a FasTrak customer.'"
She says it's because her FasTrak device often doesn't work. She always appeals and FasTrak cancels the fine, but this time, however, she received a bizarre demand from FasTrak.
"I thought, 'Am I on candid camera?' Like, 'Is someone playing a joke on me?'" said Mazurek.
As usual, FastTrak agreed to forgive the penalty if she paid the toll. However, the toll amount was staggering.
"I had to count the commas and say, 'Thousand, million, billion. OK this is a $130 billion FasTrak violation,'" said Mazurek.
Sure enough, she showed us the bill. It says the amount due is $130,459,467,010.00. Mazurek nearly flipped.
"But no. Then I thought no this is a very enormous, ridiculous error and then I started laughing at it," said Mazurek.
Not to worry, she had 15 days to come up with the money, and she could just put it on her credit card.
"We take Visa, AmEx, Discover, and Mastercard," said Mazurek.
This was so crazy, Mazurek decided to post the letter on Facebook. Her friends had a lot of fun with comments.
"Some of the funniest ones were the people who actually took the time to calculate how you would incur this kind of a toll," said Mazurek.
One friend said she'd have to cross the bridge four times per hour for 744,000 years. Another said it would take 5,017,000 toll crossings per week for a whole year. Others said, "You have fixed the budget crisis!"
"So I called FasTack and told them we got this bill for $130 billion and they were totally unfazed," said Mazurek.
FasTrak said ignore the bill, but Mazurek was concerned. What if there were other mistakes?
"One of my Facebook friends said, 'Oh, you have to call 7 On Your Side,'" said Mazurek.
Mazurek did contact us. She also found a big clue to explain that big bill.
Looking at the bill, the TVE number at the top says the violation number. It's 130-459-467-- the same digits shown as the amount due. So that big dollar figure was really the violation number typed in the wrong place. We told FasTrak about this. A spokesperson traced the problem telling us: "The incorrect huge amount was due to a customer service representative's copy-and-paste error."
And not to worry, she didn't have to pay $130 billion.
"It was good for a laugh that day and for a number of laughs afterward," said Mazurek.
As for those repeated violation notices, FasTrak says one of the family's cars was not listed on their FasTrak account so the system didn't recognize the license plate. After this happened, Mazurek says she is going to read all of her notices carefully to catch any copy and paste errors.