The Hazards of an Automated Life
I don't share many personal stories here. But this one is just itching to be told--mainly because I think I have stumbled on one of the oddest problems with modern money management in the age of the Internet and bank mergers and automated payments. Basically, I've lost access to my own account and can't seem to get it back.
A few years ago, I took out a car loan through a Virginia bank. I then set up automatic payment of that car loan through Riggs Bank, with whom I had a checking account. On-line bill pay is wonderful. You don't get any more statements jamming up the mail box and, assuming you have a regular flow of cash going in, you don't even have to think about paying your bills. It just happens.
Well, you know what else happens? Bank mergers. That Virginia bank was bought by BB&T and Riggs was bought by PNC. Nevertheless, my payments kept ticking right along even though all my account numbers changed.
But now I'm moving and need to switch the payments to come from another bank. I also might sell the car and need to know how much I still owe. Problem is, I don't seem to have the new loan account number. You'd think I could get it from PNC since they transfer over the payment every month, but you'd be wrong. See, I'm not signed up for their on-line bill pay. They were nice enough to roll over my payments from Riggs but for me to make any adjustments or see the account numbers to which the payments are going, I have to sign up and reset everything up. But I'm about to change banks, I said. Oddly, that didn't inspire them to help.
Right now, all they can give me is the last four digits of the BB&T account number.
O.k., someone at BB&T should be able to help, right? Nope. To get the privilege of speaking to a human being, you have to enter your social security number AND your account number. Apparently, if you don't know your account number, you're left with e-mailing the bank as your only option. Which I have done and from whom I've received little help so far.
Undoubtedly I'll get this resolved. But what a waste of my time. I find it astounding that we have gotten to a point where a guy can lose control of his own account. This is a good lesson. Be careful how automated you let your life become. Things can get away from you and suddenly that service that was supposed to make your life easier becomes a huge thorn in your side.