$10 Credit card charge balloons to $170 and it's all a mistake

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PHOENIX -- A mysterious charge on a Phoenix woman's credit card statement has really gotten out of control.

Let me start by saying this "mysterious" charge is $9.99.

It sounds like a small amount, but a north Phoenix woman says she never charged it. To make matters worse, that fraudulent $10 charge has now festered into a whopping $170 bill.

So, she contacted 3 On Your Side.

Sally Jo May says she is very disciplined when it comes to paying bills. In fact, she has a system to make sure every bill gets paid.

"The minute I walk through the door, I go through the mail," May said. "Anything that's a bill I open it and put it in my desk drawer."

May says all of her bills are arranged by date so they're paid on time.

So, she was a little unnerved when she received a letter from a debt collector saying she owed $172 for an unpaid bill. The letter was followed by an angry phone call.

"This gal just ripped into me, saying, 'You know it's your debt. You need to pay it," May said.

Apparently, the debt originated as a mysterious $9.99 charge to one of May's old credit cards, a card company called HSBC.

But, as May's credit report reflects, that credit card was paid off and closed years ago and May never knew the mystery charge had even popped up.

"So it did not get paid because I did not get the statement, I didn't know about it," she said.

As a result, that small $9.99 unpaid charge snowballed into $170 because of penalties and late charges.

May says she called HSBC to inquire but got nowhere.

"They're refusing to talk to me because they sold the account to a third party vendor," May said.

That third party vendor is the debt collector.

So, 3 On Your Side called HSBC to investigate and they did.

What they found was that the $9 charge that ballooned into $170 over the course of a year was actually a mistake.

As a result, HSBC called off the debt collector and removed the charge.

May says she's relieved and couldn't have done it on her own.

Get this, HSBC found out that original $9 charge was the result of a telephone solicitation for identity theft membership by some company.

That company apparently called May's old telephone number and the $9 membership was somehow activated by someone, but it wasn't May.

A big thank you, though, to HSBC for getting to the bottom of things and resolving it at our request.