It comes as something of a surprise to discover that one's blemish-less credit score has, in fact, been blemished.
I feel like an old fool, but where are we going to find one at this time of the day? (The old jokes are the best ones, aren't they?)
We are expecting another cold spell in the next couple of days, so I launched the Weather Channel app on my iPad last night to see what was in store. At the bottom of the screen was one of those annoying adverts that appear from time to time. This one said something like "Mortgage rates are still low; it's a great time to refinance; click here to find out how low your new rate can be."
So I did. I'm still kicking myself for my stupidity, but things actually worked out to my advantage in a strange sort of way.
The system started out by asking innocuous questions like "What's your ZIP code?" Then it said, "What's your email address (don't worry, we won't email you)," followed by "What's your phone number (don't worry, we won't call you)." What can I say? I'd had a long day. I wasn't thinking, so I gave my personal email and my office telephone number. I finally came to my senses when the system asked, "What is your Social Security number?" This is the point when I closed down the browser window, killed the Weather Channel app, and moved on with my life.
Even with legitimate mortgage companies, you have to be very careful handing out your Social Security number. If a bunch of them start checking your credit, this can bring your credit rating down significantly. As it turned out, this would have been the least of my problems.
When I came into work this morning, my email was jam packed with messages from mortgage companies, and my phone has been ringing off the hook. I didn't realize this at first. The phone was ringing when I entered my office, so I picked it up without thinking. I found myself talking to a jolly nice guy called Russell from Quicken Loans. When I realized what had instigated this call, I said, "Hang on a moment. That company told me that they wouldn't email me or call me." Russell replied "Well, they haven't, have they? Instead, they've given your email address and telephone number to everyone else, and I'm the one who is calling you." Hmmm, it's difficult to argue with logic like that.
Since Russell had me on the phone, we started exploring the remortgage situation. One thing I'm rather proud of (in addition to my outrageous good looks and my snappy sense of dress) is my credit score, which was in the low 800s the last time I looked. I may not have any money in the bank, but I always pay my bills as soon as they walk through the door, so I never have late payments or anything like that.
I conveyed this information to Russell. However, when he checked from his end, he informed me that my credit score was in the high 600s. "What the heck?" I said (or words close to this in spirit). He told me the only negative point on my otherwise spotless credit record was the fact that a collection company had been trying to claim $350 from me since September. He also very kindly gave me the name and telephone number of the collection agency and my case number.
A few minutes later, I was on the phone with the collection agency. It said Huntsville Hospital had let loose the dogs of war. The agency also gave me the address to which it had sent the bill -- an address provided by Huntsville Hospital. The address was a house I moved out of more than 15 years ago.
I settled the bill over the phone, and then I called Huntsville Hospital. By this time, I was certainly not wearing my customary happy face. In fact, I was getting very close to instructing the butler to go and fetch my angry trousers.
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