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Toll charges for state in which he’s never driven

THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,221,674

Updated: June 14, 2012 8:27AM



Dear Fixer: Let me start with this: I’ve never been to Massachusetts.

In February, I received a turnpike violation notice from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for $57.50. It included a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate, which has the same numerals as mine though it didn’t look like a passenger vehicle.

I appealed, won and thought that was done.

Then I got a credit card bill showing a $40 replenishment to my Illinois I-PASS account on April 18. I checked and saw four more toll charges, all from Massachusetts. (After that, I got two additional toll charges.)

I called I-PASS multiple times. I also called MassDOT and got rudely shuffled off to two other agencies that said they couldn’t help.

The I-PASS people say they can’t protect my account. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office said I should change my license plate at a cost of $29. But since E-Z-Pass still has my account number, I’m afraid they will keep hitting my account every time this person goes through a toll.

Timothy Wrath, Cary

Dear Timothy: Since you’ve never been to the Bay State, and you’re fairly certain you don’t have an evil twin, and the front of the Honda Fit you drive doesn’t resemble a semi-trailer like the one in the violation notice photos, The Fixer figured it would be fairly easy to get you off the hook.

The bigger challenge would be making sure you don’t keep getting dinged every time this Illinois trucker blows a toll in Massachusetts.

After getting in touch with the folks at MassDOT, we’re pretty sure this is fixed.

We got the attention of Michael Verseckes, MassDOT spokesman, who apologized for the hassle. As you found out, some Illinois passenger plates have the same numbers as Illinois commercial plates and specialty plates, though each has an additional designation noting the type of plate it is. Apparently, the E-ZPass image-reader wasn’t catching the distinction.

Verseckes said they will “make some tweaks” to their image-readers to better distinguish between different types of out-of-state plates.

The two violations have already been canceled, and the six tolls will be refunded.

COSTLY LESSONS:
A consumer’s tale of woe

Today’s tale began many years ago, with a tempting offer for three nights at a local resort for $100.

But like so many things in life, there were strings attached: Our reader, Charles, and his wife would have to hear a salesman’s pitch about a timeshare program.

The pitch was persuasive.

“We were to have a ‘mortgage’ for a condo we could use for two weeks a year,” Charles wrote. “At the time, we were working with good jobs and could afford it.”

Now the couple is retired and on a fixed-income. They fell behind on their payments and on a yearly maintenance fee, so they aren’t allowed to use the timeshare at all.

“I asked several times if there was a way we could get out of the mortgage, but all we ever got was: ‘There are companies out there who can help you sell it.’ Of course, they won’t do anything until you send them a large sum of money.

“We even hired one of them. They sent us a form letter to send to everyone involved. When nothing was accomplished, the reseller said to send more money, which we did not,” Charles wrote.

Sadly, there are many unscrupulous resellers out there. (It’s useful to check any reseller’s records at BBB.org and avoid those with a large upfront fee.) Consumers who want to ditch their timeshares can check with a licensed real estate broker, though in this market there aren’t many buyers. We’ve heard of desperate sellers unloading timeshares for $1 or donating paid-off timeshares to charity.

We suppose Charles could rent it out to recoup the yearly fees — though first he’d have to get his weeks back.



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