A Y2K "fix" had "bankrupted" me: Check Free

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A Y2K "FIX" HAD BANKRUPTED ME: CheckFree (A bit of an exageration, but an interesting story.)

"... while on the phone to her this morning trying to fix the credit card mess, I mentioned that I had posted a brief account of my troubles to the internet. She responded, 'yes, someone already forwarded me a copy'. News travels fast these days, doesn't it? "

"... the doorbell rang, and it was a UPS driver delivering a UPS Next Day Air letter from CheckFree, containing a check for $625.00, covering the 25 bounce fees I've incurred due to this problem."

=============================================================== Initial post that was forwarded to CheckFree A Y2K "FIX" HAS BANKRUPTED ME http://x45.deja.com/[ST_rn=ap]/viewthread.xp?AN=513198424&search=thread&svcclass=dnserver&ST=PS&CONTEXT=936482207.342097975&HIT_CONTEXT=936482207.342097975&HIT_NUM=25&recnum=%3c37b76745.252481@ Date: Mon, 09 Aug 1999 From: dcd@firstnethou.com (Dan Day) Organization: Frontier GlobalCenter Inc. Newsgroups: comp.software.year-2000 ===============================================================

A Y2K "fix" has bankrupted me. Temporarily, at least, although the problem still has not been fixed as of today. I'll write up a more detailed report when the dust finally settles for good, but here's the short form for now.

The CheckFree corporation (http://www.checkfree.com) has been doing "pay bills by computer" for a long, long time now, way before the banks themselves started providing such a service. I've been using CheckFree for this purpose for over ten years.

They've been reasonably reliable, but this month they blew a gasket and sucked all my money out of my checking account, and then some, leaving me overdrawn by several thousand dollars.

According to their customer service reps, they installed new, rewritten software on their bill-paying mainframe last month, because the old software was not Y2K compliant. All well and good, except for the fact that the new software which has a Y2K "fix" managed to also include shiny new bugs.

One of those bugs took almost a dozen of my payment requests from the end of June, which were "pay one time only" requests, and erroneously interpreted them as "pay forever on the same day every month" requests.

Consequently, several large payments that I had made at the end of June to pay off some credit cards got made again at the end of July, resulting in: 1. Large credit balances on my credit cards. 2. A huge overdraft on my checking account. 3. 19 "bounce" fees (so far) on my checking account,for a grand total of $475 in bank fees.

I discovered the problem on Saturday, July 31st. Checkfree admitted error on Monday, August 2nd. It's now August 9th, and thanks to a comedy of errors, I stillhaven't gotten my money back from CheckFree yet, although they keep promising that they'll get it all straightened out "Real Soon Now".

And to make matters even more exciting, one of my credit cards is now on "hold" because of CheckFree's screwup. What happened is that one of the big bogus payments that CheckFree sent out was to one of my credit cards, and since that payment bounced, the credit card company put an automatic "hold" on my card. This is a BIG problem, because since CheckFree has wiped out my checking account, I've had to start living off credit cards. If my other credit cards get "held" for similar reasons, I'm going to have to start panhandling until all this mess is straightened out. Sigh.

CheckFree promises to return my money, reimburse me for the "bounce" fees, and send letters of explanation to the dozens of creditors who have been affected, but it remains to be seen whether they will reimburse me for the huge inconvenience, the aggravation, and the scores of hours I've spent trying to get them to restore things to normal.

And they've admitted that I'm not the only CheckFree customer this has happened to...

I program computers for a living, and I used to be pretty complacent about the possible disruption of Y2K. However, now that I've seen first-hand the personal havoc that can be caused by a simple Y2K *fix*, I'm beginning to get concerned about how much of a mess will be caused by undiscovered Y2K bugs (and/or further "fixes"), and how long it will take to get it all straightened out. My own problem has taken ten days so far, and counting, and today things are WORSE than they were when CheckFree started working on a "remedy". Sheesh.

=============================================================== Subject: Re: Y2K "fix" has bankrupted me - 1999/08/10 - Dan Day Update: A credit was made to my checking account yesterday evening (the 9th) which finally covers the amount(s) erroneously extracted from my account. [10 days after problem was discovered.] That finally gets me over the main hurdle. Still in the works are reimbursement for the 19 bounce fees ($475), with the bank reporting that another 6 hit over the weekend. If those aren't covered soon, checks will start bouncing again, as I hadn't planned on being $625 short this pay period, and it's too late to cover the shortfall using other resources. Also in the works is the attempt to get my credit card company to "unhold" my card -- despite several phone calls and faxes to them yesterday, they can't seem to manage to figure out who has the faxes, and so CheckFree is faxing them the info all over again today. If it's not one thing, it's another. The good news, besides the recent re-emergence of a positive balance in my checking account, is that the CheckFree rep who has been on this case for the past two days really seems to be on the ball and working hard at resolving it, unlike some of the earlier ones. One point of amusement -- while on the phone to her this morning trying to fix the credit card mess, I mentioned that I had posted a brief account of my troubles to the internet. She responded, "yes, someone already forwarded me a copy". News travels fast these days, doesn't it? :-)

============================================================== Subject: Re: Y2K "fix" has bankrupted me - 1999/08/09 - Dan Day

I'll tell you right now that your creditors and credit-reporting agencies will often not bother to manually correct the records. And they don't "have" to, for all practical purposes. The "letters" will be lost, misfiled, ignored, treated as begs for better credit (and then discarded), etc. Oh, joy. And the Really Cool Thing is that the Y2K Liability Exemption Act of 1999 will immunize them against any actions on your part. This is news to me -- what all does that act cover? But thanks for the update. Assuming it is not a troll (not accusing you, but one must always treat online reports with some moderate suspicion), No offense taken, I understand. If anyone has a good reason to want to check the veracity of my account, email me and I'll provide you with the names and numbers of the folks at CheckFree who are running in circles trying to patch things up. it is one of the latest in a series of reports of Y2K problems (with the "fixes" counted in as part of the problem...after all, it doesn't matter if the reactor goes offline because of bugs in the code hastily and sloppily installed or do to specific Y2K bugs). Yeah, that's why I thought it was worth posting.

============================================================== Subject: Re: Y2K "fix" has bankrupted me (NOT!) - 1999/08/12 - Dan Day

Dan -- is your attorney aware that CheckFree has been discussing your financial matters with complete strangers? That doesn't concern me (unless they start publishing my checking account number or something). As I mentioned elsewhere, I clearly gave them leave to discuss it in at least general terms when I: (a) described the problem myself here in a very public way; and, (b)offered to hook reporters up with the folks at CheckFree who have been working to resolve the problem (with the clear intention of letting CheckFree describe their side of the story). [Amusing aside -- just as I finished typing that paragraph, the doorbell rang, and it was a UPS driver delivering a UPS Next Day Air letter from CheckFree, containing a check for $625.00, covering the 25 bounce fees I've incurred due to this problem. For you doubting Thomases (or Bradleys), that's check number 127021, dated 08/11/1999, drawn on Key Bank of Cleveland Ohio.] Getting back to the subject at hand, the letter from the VP that Mr. Sherman posted was vague enough that it didn't really divulge any details of my "financial matters" -- it only admitted that there was a problem, it was their fault, and they were working with me to resolve it. Hell, I gave away a lot more detail in my own post.

============================================================== Subject: Re: Y2K "fix" has bankrupted me - 1999/08/12 - Dan Day

As for Mr. Aubrey, he has not told me who he writes for. For obvious reasons, I'd rather restrict access to a few who write for reputable journals, instead of scores of writers for "Jim's End Of The World Internet Times". FROM MR. AUBREY: "Well Dan, as luck would have it, I write for a few different publications. I have been published in several McGraw-Hill publications, magazines from the Times Mirror Corp., newspapers published by Gannett and a few other industry trade publications. I have been a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher for a few different products and never for the Internet, except to share a few thoughts in this group. "And, bucko ......" "Bucko"? You seem to have taken offense here, and I have no idea why. Surely you can understand why I'd rather not give out the phone numbers of individuals at CheckFree to everyone on the internet who happens to be curious, without checking to see who might be a crank and who might not be. Most of the folks I've dealt with at CheckFree have been very nice to me, and given that it wasn't their personal fault in the first place, it would not be fair of me to subject them to what might be dozens of calls from lord-knows-who. A few calls from the most legitimate inquirers ought to suffice. As such, my desire to make sure that I only pass along contact information to those who won't behave like jerks seems to be the only responsible way to do this. And before your current post, I really had no way to know whether you were one of the serious information seekers or not. Mr. Sherman seemed especially fixated on whether you, personally, had received any contact information from me, which is why I explained to him that a) My problem wasn't resolved yet, and b) You had chosen not to tell me anything that would let me know who you were. I made no judgement about you -- in fact, the very point of my last post was to explain to the ever-suspicious Mr. Sherman why I *hadn't* made any judgement about you. So why do you seem so annoyed? <the way this thing works is we don't need your permission to investigate the claims you have made in this public forum.> I'm well aware of that, "bucko". Feel free to look into it. I'd be interested in reading what you find. The point, however, which you seem to have utterly missed, is that if you, or anyone else, want contact numbers for the PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WORKED WITH ME ON THE PROBLEM (for that is what I have been offering), then I'd like some indication that the information will be used responsibly. If you can complete your story without such contacts, then more power to you. In fact, I would prefer it that way -- I only want to unleash reporters on the actual people who spent so much time working with me if it's truly necessary. If the story can be resolved through "the usual channels", so much the better -- then I won't have to cause any inconvenience for the folks who helped me out. But if that's the only means by which we can finally get to the bottom of this, then so be it. Are we clear now? If it turns out that you've been lying, defaming CheckFree or any other company, they will probably want to chat with you about it. I'm not. And if you were as good a reporter as you seem to think you are, you would have noticed that the reply that Mr. Sherman got from CheckFree already acknowledges that I have indeed suffered the problem I describe. If it turns out that you've been telling the truth, then the public will benefit from sharing your story. That was my goal, but now that I've seen how much crap I've gotten for it, I'm wondering why I bothered. You don't control it any longer. You've done your bit and those of us that do journalism for a living thank you for the tip. Go for it. Again, however, if someone wants to dig more into the particulars (or needs to, given how vague the letter from the VP seems to be), then it might be necessary to start talking to the folks who actually had to wade through my problem personally, and know it intimately. If the PR folks (and VP's) at CheckFree don't want to say anything more than vague denials, then information from those "in the trenches" might become necessary. Surely "those of you that do journalism for a living" must understand that sort of thing.

=================================================================== NEW THREAD: FOR THE RECORD - CHECKFREE http://x34.deja.com/[ST_rn=ap]/viewthread.xp?AN=514050771&search=thread&svcclass=dncurrent&ST=PS&CONTEXT=936484414.680198253&HIT_CONTEXT=936484414.680198253&HIT_NUM=8&REDO=1&recnum=%3c7pd715$s6m@dfw-ixnews17.ix.netcom.com%3e%231/1&group=comp.software.year-2000&frpage=getdoc.xp&back=clarinet Date: 1999/08/18 Author: Bradley K. Sherman I followed up to CheckFree with this question: The current conjecture in comp.software.year-2000 is that the cause of your customer's woes was new software that was installed because of Y2k. That is, although this is obviously not a bona fide Y2k-bug, in that it is not a 00-99 problem, that the defect was in software that was meant to fix Y2k problems. The logic being that the problem did not exist in prior years and that CheckFree has recently upgraded because of Y2k. And received this response: I think I understand your question, but let me know if this doesn't cover it. I guess the most important fact is that the recurring payment error noted earlier was not in any way related to Year 2000, or a Year 2000 fix. The software is part of CheckFree's new processing platform, which was built from the ground up two years ago. Through acquisitions, CheckFree was previously running three separate processing platforms in 3 different cities for bank-supported users, Quicken users, direct customers, etc. The company took the best capabilities of each platform to create a new system to support the new features and functionality now available with electronic billing and payment, provide the scalability necessary for mass consumer adoption and to provide the economies of scale needed to offer its services cost-effectively. One of the advantages of building the new platform and related software from scratch is that it has been Y2K compliant since its inception.

CheckFree has been migrating all customers to the new platform since last fall. After this particular customer was moved to the new platform, the software incorrectly interpreted his single payment instruction and a second or recurring set of payments was initiated. Once the issue was pin-pointed, a permanent solution was tested and successfully implemented ...

============================================================== Re: For the record: CheckFree - 1999/08/18 - Theo DP Bradley, my friend...check out the Checkfree 10-Q! How odd that they call the migration a Y2K issue ... when they're filing with the SEC ... vs responding to Joe Consumer. This is the kind of thing that makes skeptics out of folks. YEAR 2000 READINESS The following statements are "Year 2000 Readiness Disclosures" in conformance with the Year 2000 Information and Readiness disclosure Act (15 U.S.C. 1) enacted on October 19, 1998...The final implementation phase will include the planned migration of customers from the Chicago and Columbus systems to the Year 2000-ready Genesis Platform followed by applicable testing on that system to be completed by September 30, 1999... http://www.investquest.com/InvestQuest/c/ckfr/fin/10q/ckfrq39.txt

============================================================== Re: For the record: CheckFree - Date: 1999/08/18 - Scott Very odd indeed. From the CheckFree 10-Q: "The Company is moving all of its Electronic Commerce segment processing to Year 2000-ready environments and is making satisfactory progress to ensure that all of its systems will be ready for any date-based functions related to the millennium. Previous implementation phases included building a Year 2000-ready data center and the physical move of the processing systems to that center." Ok - so CheckFree builds a "Year 2000-ready data center" and then proceeds to migrate their customers from other systems to this "Genesis Platform"; enter Dan Day. According to this CheckFree veep that bks has been in contact with, after this migration of Dan's information took place, Dan's troubles occurred as a direct result of him changing recurring payments to once-only transactions, where upon the system did not properly execute those instructions. Now, my question is: If the problem was not a direct result of an internal conflict directly attributable to the migration of information to the new Y2k-ready "Genesis Platform", then what EXACTLY caused the system to behave in the manner in which it did with Dan Day? According to Dan, he had done the very same command (recurring payment to once-only payment) multiple times during the past ten years, without any problems whatsoever.

We have now established, according to the CheckFree VP that "After this particular customer was moved to the new platform, the software incorrectly interpreted his single payment instruction and a second or recurring set of payments was initiated", and from the CheckFree 10-Q, it has been established that the REASON for the recent migration of information was *specifically* Y2k related.

So, the veep says that the problem wasn't Y2k related: fine. Assuming for the moment that this is true, the question STILL remains: What *EXACTLY* caused the system to misinterpret Dan's commands, if it had nothing to do with the migration to the new Y2k platform? Another way of looking at it: FACT: The commands that Dan tried to execute on the new system worked fine on multiple occasions on the old, non-Y2k compliant system (as per Dan's testimony). FACT:The migration of customer information (according to the CheckFree 10-Q) was done in an effort to have all customers on a new Y2k compliant system. FACT: AFTER the move of Dan's info was completed (as stipulated by the CheckFree VP), he tried the same commands again on the new Y2k-ready system, with undesirable results. QUESTION: WHAT EXACTLY CAUSED THE PROBLEM if it was not bugs within the new Y2k compliant system, as the customer rep who Dan spoke with allegedly stated? Call me skeptical, but it looks to me at this point as if TPTB at CheckFree are engaging in some judicious CYA practices after all. Yikes - it's no wonder people often mistrust the ability of financial institutions to always give a direct, truthful answer when asked a direct question.

============================================================== Re: For the record: CheckFree - 1999/08/19 - ralphdaugherty Good point, Theo DP. Checkfree didn't come right out and explicitly state that their previous software was non-compliant, but their response to bks, along with their SEC filing, indicates to me that their previous systems were combined and rewritten with both Y2K compliance and integrated functionality in mind.

Both bks and Checkfree are clear that the payments problem was not a Y2K bug, but Checkfree's response to bks' question is clearly a 'Yes, this software upgrade was made to fix Y2K problems' ...

-- Cheryl (Transplant@Oregon.com), September 04, 1999


Contingencies abound, now more than ever. Writing your own checks will eliminate this one.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), September 05, 1999.

If its not a Y2K issue then as I understand it, they're more exposed to liability for the screw-up.

-- PD (PD@yahoo.com), September 05, 1999.

(I'm dedicating this post to Infomagic for his big hand on my "awakening")

This is an example of a micro-domino effect. The frustration conveyed in Dan's ordeal alone makes me want to convert all of my assests and go hide.

The spiral only has begun to unwind.

-- Chris (%$^&^@pond.com), September 05, 1999.

I didnt read the whole thing---because we will probably be seeing it on one of those NBC-dateline 5 days a week important news shows, where they cover really important subjects like this!!

Right?? Right??

hello? anybody there? what time is it--holy smoke 1:50am this is worse than a drug!!

-- David Butts (dciinc@aol.com), September 05, 1999.


Here is the Thread from Deja News.

imager@home.com), September 05, 1999.

 Not a good day for html

-- Brian (
imager@home.com), September 05, 1999.

Try this link.

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), September 05, 1999.

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