Happiness is just a tipoff from a guy named Joe
Updated: May 8, 2012 4:07PM
Joe Kaminski, a Fixer reader in Streamwood, didn’t fall for this rip-off but he wanted to make sure none of you get sucked in.
A week or so ago, Joe’s girlfriend got a letter from an entity called “Local Records Office” that looked terribly official. The timing was interesting, as she had recently inherited some property. The envelope had a boxed warning on it reminding against tampering with the U.S. Mail or risking a “$2,000 fine, 5 years imprisonment or both.”
Inside that serious-looking envelope was a document that upon first glance, might be mistaken for a government document. It had a detachable payment coupon and stated that Local Records Office would provide a copy of her property deed for $89.
Luckily, Joe and his girlfriend looked a little closer at the letter and saw these small words:
“Local Records Office is not affiliated with the county in which your deed is filed in, nor affiliated with any government agencies.” So in other words, Local Records Office is just some business that will charge you $89 for documents you could easily get yourself from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Joe is worried that other consumers might not examine the letter closely, which is why he alerted The Fixer.
“An elderly or unsophisticated consumer might construe this as an official document and send in the $89,” Joe warns.
We’ve found similar set-ups around
the country with businesses calling themselves “Record Retrieval Department,” “National Record Service,” or other official-sounding names. If you get one of these letters, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s from the county.
Dear Fixer: I grew up in Naperville and my family still lives there. I had driven to town in October and felt terrible — sore throat, etc. I decided to go to the Central DuPage Hospital River North Convenient Care center, which I had been to before on more than one occasion, to have a strep test.
I spent literally five minutes in the clinician’s office, where he assessed my throat and did the test. It turned out it wasn’t strep, but he did prescribe medication, which I took and quickly recovered. No problem.
A couple of months later, I received a bill and the strep test was listed as $412.50. I thought it was a misprint, but their billing office assured me it was accurate. I had expected it be somewhere between $100 and $150. I checked the Healthcare Bluebook website for typical costs for these services and found they are typically $74 at an urgent care facility and $114 at a physician’s office.
I checked with my insurance company to see what they would pay for such services and they said $165. (I have a high-deductible plan where I pay 100 percent until I hit $6,000, so I would be paying the total bill for this visit.)
I wrote a letter to CDH expressing my displeasure and included a check for $165.
Unfortunately, my letter and check didn’t have the effect I wanted. They sent me a new statement demanding an additional $247.50. Meanwhile, I checked with three other urgent care facilities in the area and they charge between $95 and $130. I did manage to speak to a person with “client services” within CDH who thought the charges should have been $156 total.
I hope you can help.
Dear Jay: Just as a comparison, The Fixer called a drugstore clinic we’ve used and the price they quoted was $77 for a visit and strep test. So you could have gone there five times for the amount of money CDH billed you and still had money left over for Popsicles.
The good news is after we brought this whopper of a bill to the marketing and media folks at CDH and Cadence Health, you got a letter from a manager at CDH who said they’ve agreed to accept your $165 as payment in full.
We asked Cadence spokesman Chris King to elaborate, but he declined to comment further.
So we will caution the rest of you: The next time you are sick and use urgent care, croak out these words: “How much will this cost?”
P.S.: That Health Care Blue Book website Jay referred to is healthcarebluebook.com. It’s a great tool to get an approximation of various medical costs. You’ll still need to ask your provider, but at least you’ll have an estimate.
Today’s lesson is a short-and-sweet reminder to beware of free gifts from credit card companies.
James of Chicago got an offer from his credit issuer that sounded quite generous: Four free magazine subscriptions. He signed up under the impression that they wouldn’t be renewed unless he said so.
So can you guess what happened after the free trial ended? Yep. Vogue, This Old House, Seventeen and Kiplinger’s kept right on coming, and James’ account got billed.
These auto-renewing subscriptions can be a pain to end, especially when they’re billed through a third-party magazine service with sketchy customer service. Next time you’re offered a freebie, make sure it won’t cost you in the end.
Getting the runaround about a
consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer
where you’ll find a simple form to fill out.
Or, you can mail a brief description of your problem, along with your name, address and telephone number, to: The Fixer, 3701
W. Lake Ave., Glenview IL 60026.