Lawrence Walsh: Read the fine print in all contracts

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Molly Rush has a cautionary tale to tell about co-signing a car loan without reading all the fine print.

Ms. Rush, 78, of Dormont, former director of the Thomas Merton Center, Pittsburgh’s Peace and Social Justice Center, wanted to help a granddaughter who needed a more dependable car to get to and from two part-time jobs.

They found a 2012 four-door Mazda 6 for sale at a used car lot earlier this month. It had about 52,000 miles on it and cost $13,199, including the state sales tax.

After driving the car for a few days, the granddaughter realized she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the monthly car payments in addition to payments she needed to make on her student loan.

When she tried to return the car, the lot owner declined to accept it.

Translation: she was stuck with it.

Ms. Rush then said she would pay the loan in full. The owner referred her to Ally, an automotive financing company that had provided the money for her and her granddaughter to buy the car.

On its website, www.ally.com, Ally described itself as “a new kind of financial services company, one that begins and ends with the customer.” When Ms. Rush called Ally, a customer service representative said it would cost her $15,225.42 to pay off the loan.

What?

A service contract, which cost approximately $2,000 to cover automotive repairs, had been added to the car contract.

“No one told me about it,” Ms. Rush said. “I didn’t do my due diligence. I feel so stupid. This whole thing has been so frustrating.”

The lot owner said she was told about the service contract at the time of the sale. After a return visit to the lot, two weeks later with a family member who used to sell cars, Ms. Rush agreed to continue the service contract.

Ms. Rush, who has 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, said she and the granddaughter for whom she co-signed the loan have learned a valuable lesson about contracts.

“Take your time,” she said. “Read the fine print. All of it. Ask questions if anything isn’t clear. Salesmen want to quickly close a deal. Don’t let them rush you.”

Ms. Rush gave her 2001 Honda Civic with 75,000 miles on it to her granddaughter and now is driving the 2012 Mazda 6.

English scam

An Internet thief in England thought pyp — the first letters of the Post Your Problem column — were the first three letters of the last name of a woman who lived in England.

Perhaps that’s why he/she sent a “claim refund” to the Post Your Problem email address, pyp@post-gazette.com. The sender claimed to be from the “HM Revenue & Customs Tax Credit Office” in Liverpool, England.

“After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity, we have determined that you are eligible to receive tax refund of 358.52 (pounds, about $537 in U.S. money).

“To access your tax refund, please download and fill the Tax Refund Form attached to this email.”

No, thanks.

Downloading the form could allow a virus to infect my computer and completing the tax refund form with any personal information could lead to identity theft.

The delete key was designed to discard such emails with dispatch.

Use it.


Lawrence Walsh can be reached at pyp@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1488. Please include your day, evening and cell phone numbers. Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email and phone call.

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