Consumer pays off debt, still gets bill

March 14, 2008 7:22:27 PM PDT
How often do you decide to pay off a big debt? 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney says finding the money to pay it off might be only part of the battle.

Gina Gallitero of Daly City wanted to get rid of an old debt so she paid off the entire balance on her Capital One credit card -- $15,237 dollars.

So did her next statement show a zero balance? Far from it. It said she now owed $15,266 dollars.

"They had indicated it had not been paid off and in fact they added finance charges," said Gallitero.

Now how could that be? Gina sent a copy of her canceled check to Capital One to prove she'd paid. It showed the company did receive the check back in October and cashed it right away.

"And I figured that would solve it but it didn't. They said they couldn't find where the money was," said Gallitero.

Capital One took the charge off Gina's card temporarily while it conducted an investigation. But Capital One could not find the money and it put that charge back on Gina's account, plus more penalties.

"They said they never found the money, so therefore I still owed them the money," said Gallitero.

Gina tried for months to clear it up.

"They never called me back and the only calls I would get were from collections people from Capitol One saying I owed money," said Gallitero. "I was just frustrated because I had to keep dealing with this."

And finance charges were still piling up.

"Finally, in February of this year, I got frustrated and I decided to call Channel 7," said Gallitero.

When 7 On Your Side contacted Capital One, the bank stepped up and searched for the money and found it -- in Texas.

Here's what happened: Gina had paid with a bank check, not a personal check. Capital One says the check did not have Gina's name or account number on it. Also, the check was somehow sent to Capital One's auto loan center in Texas. All of that made it difficult to find the money.

In the end, Capital One did credit Gina's account for the full amount and removed all penalties and fees. Capital One also apologized for the delay in resolving the matter.

It was Gina's bank that forwarded payment to Capital One, but it's a good warning to everyone. If your check goes to the wrong place it might just get cashed anyway. Make sure it has your name and account number on it and that you've sent it to the correct address.