Sunday, February 17, 2008

Parking ticket fun with PennDOT

I think most of you have heard about the year I spent fighting with the City of Philadelphia over a series of parking tickets that were put in my name but that weren't my fault. For those of you not familiar, here's a recap:

Back in September 2004, not too long after I moved to Philadelphia, I had my PA license plate stolen off my Accord at the train station while I was at work. I went to AAA, since I worked there, and they told me what to do -- that I could get my new plates through them, and they would report it as stolen.

Fast forward ahead to June 2006. I started getting letters from the City of Philadelphia about way overdue parking tickets -- $1500 worth of tickets. At first, I thought they were from after I traded in my Accord for the xB. Then I realized -- they were from the stolen plate, which I had completely forgotten about.

Soon thereafter, I started receiving notices from a collection agency. I faxed in an explanation; they never got it. I mailed in an explanation; they never got it. (It was amazing how many times they didn't receive whatever I sent.) I spent countless hours on the phone, and sent in letter after letter after letter. (The file I kept on this matter eventually became larger than the file I kept on my car, which I had for six years.)

In November, they acknowledged that they had all the proof they needed (including a letter from AAA saying, yes, we reported the plate as stolen), but didn't make a ruling until May, just before we moved -- almost a year from the time it all started. As best I can figure it out, AAA reported the plate as stolen, but PennDOT never got it in the system and/or the City of Philadelphia never got the message. It took 11 months, 8 letters/faxes, and 21 phone calls, by my count, to get it all straightened out.

Looks like we were actually the lucky ones; check out this CNN article where a guy was hasselled by PennDOT for 17 YEARS over tickets in his name that weren't actually his.

Wow. At least, in the end, they got his deal straightened out too. The morals of these stories? Don't give your twin boys similar names, and make sure you report your stolen plates directly to the police.

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