While Microsoft may have it beaten by a small margin, it has been my experience and is my opinion that Cross-Country Bank (aka Applied Card Systems, aka Consumer Credit) is nothing but the epitome of Corporate Evil.
Oh, where to begin? There's just so much to choose from.
From the beginnings of my accidental dealings with this company, they have meant nothing but trouble and harassment to myself, my family, and my credit rating. I started receiving their calls in October of 1998 with the claim that I owed them about $600 for a credit card I'd supposedly received from them. I had recieved no such card. Of course, the card was over the limit and they'd had to slap all kinds of nasty fees and surcharges on the "balance".
And of course, I refused to pay it. That was where the fun began. Through the rest of 1998 and the majority of 1999 I was subjected to phone calls from Cross-Country that often came at the rate of three times daily. The balance kept going up, and the longer I refused to pay, the more threatening the calls became. The calls came at all hours of the day, from wake-ups at 6:30 am till almost midnight. The calls persisted even after I got in touch with a consumer protection lawyer in December of 1998. Letters slapping them in the face with the Consumer Protection Act, which is supposed to protect people from such phone calls, had only the effect of diminishing their calls to merely once daily or every other day.
When grilling representatives from Cross-Country, I discovered the following facts: they had no signed application they could send me a copy of, seeing as how the transaction was supposedly done over the phone. They had neither my Social Security Number nor my birthdate. When I inquired about the charges, I was told they had been made from an ATM, though whether that ATM was in northern or eastern Virginia they couldn't figure out. None of this sounded at all suspicious to the representatives of CCB.
They made two unauthorized withdrawals from my checking account, in December 1998 and January 1999. Two months later I received a threatening phone call from their collection department from a fellow who said, while in a more easygoing mood, that he could "make my life miserable." Later, when I got him more steamed, he told me that he could "ruin my life." At this writing, my life thus far has remained pretty good. During this same conversation he also accused me of intentionally committing fraud, saying I'd never had any intention of paying my balance. For some reason he thought I was about to leave the country. I responsed that by that point CCB had sent me enough paperwork, and menacing phone calls, to make an accusation of fraud against them as well. This didn't make the agent very happy, but it was the last time they made any threats.
They denied trying to access my checking account, though it showed up on the paperwork they themselves sent me...and they said not to bother sending copies of the documentation, because they couldn't be bothered to look at it. (Those are the agent's words, not mine.) They did this bank hacking under the name "Consumer Credit." When I originally tried confronting "Consumer Credit" about this, they claimed to be working for Citibank. It was only later that I found out "Consumer Credit" was one of the many arms for Cross-Country.
CCB attempted to sic several collection agencies on my tail over the course of 1999. I carefully explained to each one, with numerous details, the real circumstances behind my "balance" and the actions that Cross-Country had taken since October of 1998. They at least seemed to think the whole thing smelled a little funny, and I never got a second notice from any of them.
Apparently, Cross-Country doesn't treat their legitimate card holders much better, and very often worse. Horrific tales from Cross-Country cardholders, nightmares for people who care anything at all about their credit ratings, can be found all over the Web. A collection of them is available at the Web Box and the Complaint Station. Another fellow who runs an investigative website and has his own horror story to tell, as well as maintaining a bulletin board with others' tales of their running battles with Cross-Country, may be found at JerryDJ.com. Each website is inundated with countless reasons why you shouldn't deal with Cross-Country Bank, vicious stories that any sane consumer would think couldn't happen nowadays, but does from this company on a regular basis. JerryDJ.com also chronicles the status of lawsuits (most obviously his own) against CCB and his recent encounter with the FBI at CCB's behest.
I personally cannot say this strongly enough: in my humble opinion, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU TRY DEALING WITH CROSS-COUNTRY BANK. My story is nothing compared to what has happened to numerous other people. For all I know, CCB may not have given up yet during this period of dormancy (especially if they happen to run across this page). And I still occasionally check my credit rating to make sure they haven't done a hatchet job on it. If you see a CCB rep heading towards you...run. Fast.
UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY, 2008: Yes! I am still getting collection notices for Cross Country Bank as I approach the 10-year anniversary of the whole debacle. Actually I've been getting collection notices all along--every few months, very often from different collection agencies.
What usually happens is that I get collection notice from X Agency, then I send them a version of what you've read in the main text above. I hear nothing for a few months...then I get another collection letter. From a different agency, usually.
The latest one: Portfolio Recovery Associates. They too, like many before them, made the magnanimous offer of clearing the debt for just a portion of what I originally "owed". How kind. But um, no.
And so it continues.
UPDATES FOR SUMMER 2003:
HUZZAH! Jerry DJ's Cross-Country Bank Sucks website is back online!
UPDATES FOR SPRING 2003:
The intrigue continues!
In late April, I received e-mails from two fellows who shared building space with the Cross-Country Bank collection center in Huntington, West Virginia. They had found my CCB page here and thought I would be pleased to know that the CCB office had been shut down. Not, apparently, that it shut down, but that official-looking types had come and done the shutting down on behalf of some allegations of bad business practices. Some further research on the matter confirmed not only this, but that at the same time yet another one of their collection centers in Kentucky had suffered a similar well-deserved fate.
Interest in Cross-County Bank has spiked in the past few weeks, if the hits on this webpage are any indication. Not surprisingly, many of the folks looking at my page are from the Huntington area. And by coincedence or not, I also noticed that one of the hits right before the shut-downs came from the U.S. Treasury Department, which handles such things as credit card fraud and bad business practices.
Also by coincedence or not, not long after this I received my first CCB collection letter in recent memory. This one came from Midland Credit Management (see the last update), which I believe once sent me a similar letter back in 2001. They also started calling. At the first call I informed the caller (briefly) of the situation and that I had no intention of paying the so-called balance. He responded, "Oh, OK. Thank you." I got another letter, and essentially cut and pasted my CCB Anti-Link for the text. The next time they called, I referred them to the class-action lawsuit against them and said I wasn't going to speak to them again for legal reasons. (In the letter I also referred them to the anti-harassment provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.)
At this writing (June 3rd) I have yet to receive another letter or call from MCM.
In bad news, it looks as if the JerryDJ site, which devoted so much time and effort for several years to investigating Cross-Country Bank, has shut down (or was shut down). If anyone know whether or not Jerry still has a site up and running somewhere, please let me know.
UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY 2003:
Long time of nuttin', and now two updates back to back.
First, last week and for the first time in over a year, I got another collection letter from a CCB agency. I'm almost touched; they haven't forgotten about me after all. They were willing to let me off the hook for half the amount CCB claims I owe them, which would still amount to $434 and change. I told them the same thing I've told the others; in fact, as I recall this agency was one of the others at one time or another.
And today my webpage log-in showed that at 12:03 this afternoon (2/5), someone with a CCB IP address (aka Applied Card Systems) checked out my page after doing a websearch for Cross Country. All I can say is, thanks for checking in!
UPDATE FOR JUNE 2001:
A couple of CCB agents and/or CCB apologists on JerryDJ's board have now made accusations that I am either (a) lying about my story or (b) someone else in my household may have gotten the card in my name and left me sitting with the bills. As to (b) I'm not sure who they think would have done this; my beagle and parrot are certainly not good candidates. As to (a) I may respond more fully when I untwist the frustration and sheer befuddlement out of my knotted stomach.
One CCB employee on the board (who helpfully goes by the name "employee") said there was no way on God's green earth that they could get my account number unless I gave it to them. Actually there are two ways: (1) Falsely telling a bank rep that there was a judgment against me (see my Anti-Link about First Union; I have no doubts someone there could have cheerfully given out my number) and (2) computer hacking / cracking. I've known too many people who were paid by companies to intentionally hack through their firewalls to harbor illusions that this is impossible, and I've seen for myself how simple it can be.
Besides, if I had given them my checking account number, why would they deny accessing it?
"Employee" also stated that when the card is activated, the call is traced to make sure everything checks out. Whether CCB customer service didn't have this info or wouldn't give it out, though, they couldn't provide me with the phone number the card was supposedly activated from. This wasn't particularly surprising since as I've mentioned before, they couldn't tell me my age, social security number, or where the card was used, either.
But on the other hand, based on the volume of spelling and factual errors CCB employees regularly make on JerryDJ's board, it wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that I got into the CCB system for no better reason than a few great or sundry typos.
UPDATE FOR MAY 2001:
Cross-Country Bank customers long complained that there was no way for them to call CCB customer servcice without making a long-distance call, since CCB never offered a toll-free number in their literature or when they would call the cardholder. Occasionally a disgruntled customer would discover a toll-free number for them and make it public, but once revealed (as I discovered myself several times), the number would go out of service shortly afterwards.
In the last few weeks, not only has another number been made public by a CCB employee, but a disgruntled employee also gave JerryDJ's site a listing of employee names and their extensions for different CCB locations. At least for the time being, you can reach CCB's customer service between 8 am and 11 pm Monday through Friday at 1-877-273-7690.
The internal list is a more complicated story. Calling it classified information, the CCB hounds have been hunting down and eliminating pages that posted the numbers--though now the list has been passed along to thousands of people and posted on hundreds of user groups. For now, you can find the list here: Cross-Country Bank Sucks.
UPDATE FOR MARCH 2001:
No doubt in response to the innumerable complaints against Cross-Country Bank, and the lawsuits that keep cropping up all over the country against them, CCB has recently started sending out paperwork called an "Important Change in Terms Notice."
First of all, not surprisingly, the fees and interest rates are both going up. A new disclaimer has been added that declares "We will apply your payments in any lawful manner that we choose." (This ignores the fact that they applied numerous people's payments, including mine, illegally.)
They are now able to use arbitration in any dispute--again, no doubt a response to the number of lawsuits filed against them.
Most importantly, they say that they will be able to change the terms of the agreement "without limitation" and that they will only notify CCB card holders about changes if such a notification is required by law.
Do I really need to say "Stay away from Cross-Country Bank" again? It's a no-brainer.