I paid off my credit card a couple weeks ago, and today I got a letter saying that "based on a review of my credit history", my credit limit was reduced by 66%. The reason given was a "severely delinquent account" on my credit record. Now, I'm as financially responsible as is reasonable for a young American to be. I don't overdraft my accounts, I pay my bills on time, I don't have a million credit lines open, nor do I have any "delinquent" accounts. Oh, except that one. That one account that, when I think about it, brings seething tears of rage to my eyes.
The story, for your enjoyment and warning, involves the following players:
me: a young, somewhat naive art student who likes to sleep in dark, quiet rooms
The Art Institute of Philadelphia: a terrible, terrible scam of an "art school"
Verizon DSL: heartless empire of crappy internet service, account under my name solely to use internet, no telephone was owned or used by me at any time
Stacey Ringgold: a skanky, greasy thief from Baltimore
A little over 4 years ago, I was living in the Art Institute of Philadelphia's student housing; a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 4-person apartment in downtown Philly. I had lived there for about 2 years, experiencing the high roommate turnover that is to be expected in a school with low acceptance standards and a high dropout rate, when, at the end of September 2006, a new resident came to replace one of the girls who left. This new resident would spend the next 3 months making my life an absolute hell.
We all know how roommates are, and we've all had shitty roommates, so I don't really need to describe what a fucking trainwreck this skank was. Okay, just a little.
As I mentioned, the apartment had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and four residents, two in each bedroom. Each bedroom had a desk for each student, and instead of keeping her desk in her room like a normal person, Stacey put her desk in the living room, which happened to be directly outside my bedroom. She did this so she could steal the wireless network from our neighbors. (When I pointed out that such an action is actually theft, she yelled at me for getting "high and mighty". Of course, I should have known at this point to report her to the school and/or get the fuck out of there, but like I said, a bit naive.)
With her desk situated directly outside my bedroom, she proceeded to sit at the desk all day and all night, screaming at people on the phone, usually while playing shitty rap music and/or watching TV at high volume. I'm not exaggerating. She would be on the phone during every waking hour (which lasted until 4-5am) screaming. When I tried to ask her to keep quiet in the middle of the night, I was met with more bitchy defiance. I mean, how DARE I tell her what to do?
Also, with her desk outside my bedroom, she started using my toilet, because the 12 foot walk to the bathroom that was designated for her was apparently too strenuous. It should come as no surprise that she did not supply said bathroom with toilet paper or ever clean it.
So there was as much daily bullshit as you could expect when you live with someone like that. She actually reported me to the RA for...I guess telling her to be quiet at 3am? (Apparently she didn't know that the RA had a crush on me, and he told her the rules of housing clearly stated that quiet hours start at 11pm.)
Stacey shared her room with a girl named Kathy, a Puerto-Rican culinary student who would be graduating (and thus moving out) at the end of the year. She and Stacey decided they wanted to get cable TV, so Kathy got an account and they agreed to split the cost. When Kathy was getting ready to leave, she cancelled the cable account, and Stacey demanded that Kathy reimburse her for her half of the cable bill that she had paid (she claimed she hadn't used or wanted the cable TV, which was utter bullshit as we had all seen her parking her fat ass in front of the TV, you know, while she was screaming on the phone.)
Around this point, Stacey gets kicked out of school. Apparently she had never gone to class during the entire time she had been enrolled. I came home one day to find her pleasantly gone, but Kathy a bit shaken up. Kathy told me that Stacey had begun physically threatening her over the cable bill money. Since Kathy was leaving, and Stacey was presumably on her way back to Baltimore at this point, we decided to just put the horror of living with her out of our minds.
I was moving back to California at the end of the quarter, which was fast approaching. The move out was relatively easy, thanks to my boyfriend at the time who drove all of my stuff to his parents' house in Rhode Island for storage. Once I got back to my parents' house in California for Christmas break before moving up to San Francisco, I went to tie up the last few loose ends from my life in Philly; namely, my Verizon DSL account, which I had used to access internet in the apartment for the past year.
I went online to pay the final bill, and instead of the monthly internet charge of $60 that I had been paying for a year or so, the bill was over $700. Utterly aghast, I checked the charges. Hundreds of calls to Baltimore. I immediately realized what had happened: Stacey had been using my DSL account (to which I had no phone attached, nor had I ever made a phone call, nor any intention of doing so) to make all those phone calls. All those screaming, bitching, arguing, ghetto-ass phone calls that kept me up at night, I now had a $700 bill for.
Of course, Verizon's bills are delayed by a month, so the next month I received the rest of the charges: little Miss Stacey Ringgold had racked up $1,100 worth of long distance phone calls on my Verizon DSL account.
Naturally, the first thing I did was give Verizon a call to let them know that these charges were the result of theft, thinking they probably have a method for dealing with this kind of thing, you know, submitting a fraud report, sending beat-down agents to Baltimore, that sort of thing. Their response after I explained what happened was basically, "Well, it's your account, so you still have to pay for it."
I contacted the school, and their response was along the same lines. "Oh, well, that's too bad." They kindly offered to contact Stacey for me (they refused to release her contact information to me) and let her know that she owed me a fucking grand and then some, but remembering what she had threatened to do to Kathy over $40, I thought better of it.
So...that was that. There was no way in hell I was going to cough up $1,100 for something I didn't do, so that account is now "delinquent". I tried contacting the credit companies to let them know it was fraud, and I never got a reply.
It's been over 4 years, and Verizon is still after that money. They sent me a letter saying they were willing to "settle" for half the cost (and even included a handy return envelope so I could send them a check), but I wasn't willing to pay $550 for something I didn't do any more than I was willing to pay $1,100 for something I didn't do.
I'm pissed that I was forced to live with a nasty, shitty blob of a person for 3 months, only to escape and find that I was the victim of theft by her hand (and fatass mouth.) I'm pissed that my credit history was ruined before I even had a chance to build good history. I'm pissed that four fucking years later I am still suffering the consequences of not beating her face in with a brick the first moment I realized she was a dirty thief. I'm pissed that no one was willing to help me. I'm pissed that, even though I don't currently plan on buying a house or a car or anything else that I would need a clean credit record for, my "bad credit" is used as a reason for landlords not to rent to me (even though I have a flawless rental history and plenty of landlords who will vouch for my awesomeness), and could potentially be used as a reason for employers not to hire me.
I'm posting this as a record of "the facts of the matter", to get some catharsis, to see if anyone has any advice at this point, as well as a warning to anyone who might be in a similar situation: protect yourself, protect your accounts, and know when to apply flamethrowers.
Note: No names have been changed. If someone is going to steal $1,100 from me, they don't deserve privacy or protection. Also, even though I have implied it, I am not advocating violence and do not wish anyone to attempt violence on my behalf (seriously.)