This is a very LONG answer to your request for help, but as I’m sure you have figured out you are in an enormous mess!!
I helped my daughter deal with National Readers Service- Pittsburgh, PA last year, and it is possible (although very difficult) to cancel an account and in some cases even get a refund. After being informed that they had been reported to the FTC for refusing to honor an implied seven day cancellation period and of my intentions to contact the Attorneys General and the Better Business Bureau for assistance, they immediately cancelled her account and refunded her payment. Interestingly enough, after being contacted by the Pennsylvania AG their response letter indicated that cancellation upon customer request has always been their policy.
I encourage you to attempt to deal with them and reach some agreement about closing the account. Don’t be surprised if there is some ridiculous settlement offer or cancellation fee though; be ready for them. Gather all your documents and decide what agreement you intend to reach. Know how much has been “paid” (although it sounds like those charges may have been left unpaid and have compounded into the issue you are having with your bank/ ChexSystems??). Also know how much of the service to date that you agreed upon has been received.
If the account is cancelled, refund considerations should bear in mind that a complete refund is probably unreasonable unless the account has just been opened. For example if cancelling an account several months into the first year, 12 months of magazines with a refund of anything paid over 20% of a total five year subscription cost should be a reasonable request (should be… but don’t expect to get it easily). Even in this case, the prices of these subscriptions are so ridiculous unless all of your choices are weekly magazines, there is no way you will get out without paying well over cover-prices (not subscription prices).
You may contact them by phone, but I strongly encourage you to prepare a script if you do. Be sure to request a WRITTEN cancellation agreement from them. Another option is to send a written cancellation notification. Keep a copy of any notification(s) for documentation and send by certified mail with return receipt request.
There is help in dealing with companies like this if needed. Both my state consumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau were willing to assist in arbitrations if needed. Personally, I found the advice of my state consumer affairs office to be invaluable. Additionally, you can always contact a consumer law advocate.
• Local consumer protection agencies can be found here: http://consumeraction.gov/state.shtml
• Contact the BBB with complaints here: https://odr.bbb.org/odrweb/public/complaintlink.aspx
As to the ChexSystems situation, I strongly encourage you to contact your bank. While it is possible they will be unwilling to assist you after your failure to address your account overdraft(s), it is certainly worth the attempt. The consequences for being reported on the ChexSystems can be far-reaching. It may be difficult (or impossible) to secure a checking account at almost any bank until that report is removed- not to mention the immediate collection efforts you have described. The report is removed after five years from the date entered or upon the request of your bank.
ChexSystems Inc. will provide one free copy of your report in their database every 12 months on your request https://www.consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/freereport.htm . Also you may be entitled attach an explanation to your file as well. Q&A from ChexSystems can be found here: https://www.consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/chexsystems/faqs.htm .
Whatever amount you are ultimately financially responsible for through collections, you may attempt to resolve the matter with them even if you cannot immediately repay the debt. Third party debt collectors’ conduct is restricted by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Questions and answers about the FDCPA can be found here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm .
It will likely be beneficial to regularly monitor your credit report as a result of all of this. The three nationwide credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion- are required to provide a free copy of your credit report through www.annualcreditreport.com every 12 months. Staggering your requests from each company during a 12-month period may be a good way to keep an eye on the accuracy and completeness of the information in your reports.
I am completely convinced after my daughter’s experience that preparing young adults to be defensive consumers must be an intentional lesson, and it is a lesson that many of us parents do not teach well (or at all in some cases). Take the opportunity to tell your friends what you’ve learned. You’ll be surprised how many are just as unsuspecting as you were.
Best of luck, D/