Nobody likes having bill collectors on their case. Especially if it's a case of mistaken identity—one that has persisted for 17 years. Such is the case for Matthew Hartigan of Clearwater, Fla., writes Philadelphia Inquirer business columnist Jeff Gelles. Somehow, somewhere, a computer became convinced that Hartigan is the same Matthew Hartigan deep in debt to the city of Philadelphia over property taxes. He's gotten bills of up to $98,293 along with threatening letters over the years and has had to diligently fend each one off.
"This is the third time in twelve years I have had to prove to someone in Philadelphia that you are not entitled to my money," he wrote to a law firm in 2009. It seemed to do the trick, until the next bill came two years later. Hartigan has never lived in Philly and would have been 12 when the home in question was purchased. No matter, writes Gelles, who notes that data-collection complaints have trumped all others since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau started accepting them two years ago. Hartigan's crazy experience, then, is far from unusual. Click for the full column. (Read more debt collection stories.)