I sent a $100 check with my regular July mortgage payment to be applied to the principal. Star Bank Mortgage cashed the check on July 9, but the $100 was not applied to my account. I called and was told to fax a copy of the check. My credit union did this on July 28.
I waited. On Aug. 12 I called Star Bank again. It did not have a copy of the check and told me to send one.
In a letter dated Aug. 13, Star Bank admitted that it had received the copy of my check. It sent me a check for $10 representing two Five Star Guarantee payments since I had to fax it my canceled check copy twice. Once again I waited.
On Oct. 23 I called Star Bank as I refinanced my house on Oct. 22 and the payoff did not reflect the $100. The woman at Star Bank said there was no copy of my check or the letter of Aug. 13. I was told to fax copies of both.
I have no confidence that if I fax or even mail copies that they won't disappear again and that I'll need to repeat this next month. I am hoping that you, as a third party, might be able to help. Laurel Evanson
Response: It took another two months, and it was not what you initially tried to do in paying down the principal, but at least you have now received a refund of your $100.
Dictionary never received
I ordered a Rogers and Webster's dictionary at the end of July 1998. The $13.98 check cleared my bank on Aug. 3, but I never received the dictionary.
I wrote on Oct. 18 requesting either the dictionary or a refund but never received a response. Thanks for any help you can give me. M. Huletz
Response: Margot Stone, customer service representative for NSI Companies, said your account record with Rogers and Webster reflects only an order for The Carpenters love songs cassettes, which were shipped to you on Aug. 3. There is no order under your name or address for a dictionary. Stone said a refund of your payment of $13.98 has been issued. You should have it by now.
It's an illegal scam
I received a letter from International Monetary Funding saying that my name was positively matched to a cash prize in an international campaign promoting world trade. Is this a scam? H. Eisenbrand
Response: In a word, yes, according to Gary Smith, postal inspector at the Tampa division of the U.S. Postal Service. But it's not just a scam, it's illegal, too.
What you received is basically a solicitation to purchase tickets in international lotteries on your behalf. Naturally that requires money. Yours. Federal law prohibits mailing payments to purchase any ticket or share thereof in a foreign lottery. Sending lottery material such as letters or circulars through the mail is also generally prohibited.
Do not be deceived by how "official" the document you received appears to be. We note that your letter makes reference to the national governments of Germany, France, Spain and Canada. However, according to an item on the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's Web site, "Hot Tips on Playing Foreign Lotteries By Mail: Don't Do It," most lottery solicitations do not come from foreign government agencies. So don't be misled by references to foreign governments or names that sound legitimate. The Web address is http://www.usps.gov.
In addition, the name on the letterhead, International Monetary Funding, should not be confused with the name of the legitimate organization, the International Monetary Fund. Look-alike names are just another way to try to fool you into parting with your money.
Finally, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For anyone still tempted to try to amass a fortune through participating, by mail, in a foreign lottery, we need to warn you that offenders who knowingly violate the postal anti-lottery statute can be fined up to $1,000 and face up to two years in prison. So, if you receive other such mailed lottery solicitations in the future, turn the entire packet over to your local postmaster or nearest postal inspector.
Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.
Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.
We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.