Stolen credit cards. Overdrawn accounts. We asked for readers' scariest financial tales, and the stories we got might make your spine tingle.
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Don't be caught in a web of fear -- learn from these tales of torture and deceit … if you dare.
Read on, and don't be surprised if a black cat crosses your path.
The Tale of The ... Stolen Card
The scariest financial tale I know
Was one which caused us a ghostly woe
We watch our finances; we plan just so
To find money gone was quite a blow!
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When the finance liaison called to say
Our account had huge withdrawals that day
You can imagine our ghastly dismay
"I didn't spend it," was all I could say.
Quickly, she named items and price
Purchases made by someone not nice
"Get a new card," was the spirited advice
"Tear that card up"; she was precise!
We followed her instruction in the affair
Keeping a close watch everywhere
Now goblin finances are not in disrepair
Still our final suggestion is:
-- Clydia D.
The Tale of The ... Scamming Sister
At a young age, I quickly learned from my parents the rule of "if you can't afford it, you don't need it."
Taking this lesson with me into my adult life, I prided myself on paying cash for my purchases and only having two debts to my name: a small car loan and a credit card I paid off monthly. I knew later in life I'd need an established credit history, (and this was) the only reason I had these two items.
At 25, with bachelor's and master's degrees, I entered the world with no student loans, unlike many of my fellow classmates. I did double duty working full time and going to school full time and was proud to graduate financially free. I landed my first "real" job as a marketing director before graduation, and I was excited by the possibility of having more money in my monthly budget to afford something other than Top Ramen.
Six months into my new career, I had saved enough money for a decent-size down payment on a newer car. I knew my budget, I knew what I could reasonably afford for a monthly payment and I had picked my reasonably priced "dream car," a 2005 Mini Cooper. I went to my credit union to fill out the loan application. The loan officer assured me I wouldn't have any trouble qualifying for the loan; all of the payments on my current car loan were on time, and I had been a member of the credit union since I was a child, thanks to my parents. As the loan officer finished my application and pulled my credit report, her face had doom written all over it. I'll never forget hearing her say, "Um, there are a few things here I'd like to review with you." In less than 30 seconds, my life was forever changed.
On the screen was my credit report, with line after line of delinquent accounts, charge-offs and judgments. I struggled to not cry. None of these accounts were mine. I frantically asked her if she had entered the correct Social Security number, and upon confirmation, she had. Then the dreaded words: "Looks like you've been a victim of identity theft." The loan officer helped put together a plan of action for me to start disputing these items, and I left the bank with no car loan, utterly humiliated and in disbelief.
Today, seven months later, I've tracked down the culprit: my younger sister. How she got her hands on my information is still a mystery.
Almost weekly, I contact one of the three credit bureaus to follow up for a status on a disputed item. I've successfully had two items removed from all three reports, and still have nine more to go. Until I have all of the remaining items resolved, my dreams of a driving a "newer" car, purchasing a home or even opening a new bank account are down the drain. I look forward to the day when I can once again be financially free, and I now utilize services like free annual credit reports.
-- Sara Marie F.
The Tale of The ... Elder Abuse
Story told to me by a 94-year-old woman named Ruth:
My daughter Julia had me sign over power of attorney to her when I was 94 years old and had a bad cold. A few months later, I was in another state and had a medical emergency. Julia called the hospital and told the doctors to deny all medical care. She went to my bank and emptied my bank box and liquidated my accounts. She took my name off the title to my house. She had all financial statements for my investments mailed to her home in another state. I was able to convince the doctors to give me the blood transfusion and surgery that I needed. I never was able to get back the financial powers that I once had. My daughter Diana, who I was visiting, restored me to health despite what Julia tried to do. Once I returned home, I did not get any mail -- not even a birthday card. Everything went to Julia's mailbox in another state.
I never fixed this problem to my satisfaction. Julia sold my house. I hated to have anyone know this about my eldest daughter. She is a thief.
-- Diana T.
The Tale of The ... Zombies
When my family gets money in their hands, they become zombies. Their eyes glaze over and they lose their common sense. No thought is given to their bills or financial obligations, they just spend, spend, spend. Don't think about tomorrow when you can spend today. When their money is all gone, they head to the phone and call me. "I can't make my car payment. I don't have enough for the rent! Help, I love you; can you loan me some money? I don't know what I'm going to do if you don't help me." They're not bloodsuckers, but they're money suckers!
-- Sheila P.
The Tale of The ... Wallet Flusher
I went to class on my third day of college. I walked miles back to my dorm room, went for my keys and realized I had no purse. I went into panic mode; I needed supplies, my credit card, money, keys, everything. I sprinted back to my classroom, and that's where my disaster began.
I looked everywhere for my little brown purse. I actually started crying. As I sat there panicked, I needed to use the bathroom.
Lucky me: The stall I picked had a purse lying on the floor!
My heart began pounding. My keys and pictures were there, but no wallet. Um, it was in the toilet. Someone tried to flush it down the toilet. I had to reach inside and pull out my soaking license, membership card, college ID and credit card. However, no ATM card or cash.
I cried, called my dad and he helped. Luckily, we caught it in time. My cash was gone, and someone did get away with spending $300 on my ATM card. So, that is how my third day of class turned into a disastrous financial nightmare. That was a lesson learned in class I never forgot.
-- Jill K.
The Tale of The ... Disappearing Business Partner
"Aiden" approached me to complete a filming job with an impressive film company. We got the contract but needed to complete a film shoot for them first, which was at our own expense.
We invested our own money into this first film shoot. I know well enough not to lend somebody money unless you are fine with not getting it back. However, this situation took me by surprise. My half of the investment was $10,000, which was everything I had. My co-worker was to put in $10,000 (also).
On the day of the shoot, everything went well. At the end of the day, my business partner Aiden said he had left his checkbook at home. He sent everybody who had been working the whole day to come to me to be paid. I was surrounded by people expecting to be paid, and because my name was on the job, I didn't want to be associated with a whole lot of unpaid people. I managed to pay their bills on a credit card. My co-worker said he would pay me back Monday. Every week, he would say "I will pay you back next week." He never had any intention to pay me back. A year later, he was still saying the same thing.
-- Anita S.
The Tale of The ... Bank Card Hacker
My 17-year-old daughter has a checking account with a check card, so she can buy gas to put in her car.
She drives 30 minutes one way to school then goes to work. She works part time to pay for her gas and thus far has managed her money well.
Somebody hacked her bank account online and bought items in another state, running her balance into the red. She found herself very low on gas late one night after leaving her job. She attempted to use her check card to pay for gas and it was denied, leaving her stranded.
It took months dealing with the bank for them to realize my school-age daughter couldn't have been several states away buying items in a store when she was either in school or at her job.
The Tale of The ... Hungarian Vintage Shop
At 19, I had my debit card info stolen by a Hungarian vintage clothing enthusiast.
I found out when I went to the bank to make a deposit. I had been saving up to move to Paris. The teller asked if I wanted to deposit the check or use it to pay off my overdraft.
"Overdraft? I don't have overdraft."
"Yes, you do."
"No, you see, I'm saving up. ..."
"No, you've been spending quite a lot. In Hungary, it seems."
The account showed a balance of something like $2,000 all spent over a week in Budapest. That means the person had spent through the $2,000 in my savings plus $2,000 in overdrafts.
"But I've never been to Budapest," I said.
"Then how did you spend $4,000?" she asked skeptically.
"That's my point." She looked confused, as was I.
"I'm confused," she said.
It took two months for my bank to sort out what had happened. In fact, they never did. They just refunded my money. But it took calls to their managers and their managers' managers.
It was simple logic: Look, I made a purchase for $6 from a gas station, and two hours later I made three purchases for $400 each in a vintage clothing store in Budapest. Now, either I'm very fast, very clever or your system should have caught on to this right away. I am not fast and not that clever.
The whole mess delayed my move to Paris, and I had to reorganize all of my finances.
-- Thomas W.
The Tale of The ... Bad Credit Hubby
I always had excellent credit. Soon after I married, I found out my husband did not. He had four car repossessions and tens of thousands in debt. I had no idea about this until the creditors started to hassle me.
-- Terri M.
The Tale of The ... Haunted House
We found a house in a big city where we could get it on a lease purchase. I've never heard of buying this way, but the real estate agent said it was OK.
I went to the attorney to sign the papers and the "owner's agents" signed for her.
I starting paying as instructed to the "agents" on the first of every month until the mortgage company started saying that they never got the payments. Red flag.
After that, I paid the mortgage directly to the bank. This went on OK for two years until the bank sent someone to "see who lives in the house" because someone told them the owner was not there. Red flag.
Come to find out, the owner was not allowed to do a lease purchase without the consent of the bank. Red flag.
I went to a real estate attorney for help. He contacted the bank and tried to contact the agent. No luck in reaching the agent. Red flag.
I contacted the attorney who did the "closing" -- well there was no power of attorney on file for the agent and the owner, so my lease to purchase is void.
The attorney's advice? Stop paying the money to the bank, and start saving my money because I will eventually be evicted since I do not have any legal grounds to claim the house.
I lost my deposit, but I did not really lose my monthly payments -- I consider that to be rent. I never found the lady who owned the house. We tried searching for her but found nothing.
I wish for her to get eaten by huge slimy worms and then attacked by leeches then thrown into one of the swamps around here.
I got suckered, but I learned from this: I don't trust anyone without backup, documentation and double-checking everything.
-- Evans S.