Man gets $3.9 million bill, realizes it’s actually his social security number

Posted at 4:13 PM, Nov 17, 2017

SHEBOYGAN, Wisc. -- Is this my bill or my phone number?!

Neither. It's your social security number.

A Wisconsin man recently received a student loan bill that indicated he owed nearly $4 million.

"I almost had a heart attack," Robert Theis told WITI. "I was like, 'Whoa, what's going on?'"

Theis owed $3,000 to Federal Perkins Loan. Like most colleges, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee outsources collections to a third-party. In this case, Heartland ECSI was handling the debt collection.

Theis recently checked his balance and his amount owed suddenly ballooned to over $4 million.

"People were like, 'You don't even go to MIT for that kind of education. How do you accrue such a debt?'" Theis recalled.

School officials told Theis he missed one payment five years ago. However, he couldn't imagine that would cause his loan to go up by such an obscene amount.

The school and debt collection agency confirmed to WITI it was a mistake.

"The loan amount the student saw was actually not even possible," explained Tim Opgenorth, the UWM Director of Financial Aid.

Opgenorth says his office reached out to Heartland ECSI on Theis' behalf.

"Heartland gave us the assurance that it was a one-time glitch in the system, that it was fixed immediately," Opgenorth said.

But there were still more surprises. Theis discovered the amount he "owed" wasn't a random number.

"The amount, in fact, wasn't the amount owed. It was my social security number," Theis said.

Theis was concerned about who had access to his social security number. An official at Heartland ECSI assured Theis he was the only person with access to his information and his social security number only appeared on the online page. Theis was also told the incorrect amount was not reported to the credit bureau.

"If he feels in any way that his credit has been damaged or compromised, they are willing to work with him," Opgenorth told WITI.

Heartland ECSI also issued a statement to WITI that said it "does not discuss individual borrower accounts with the media…There has been no unauthorized access to or acquisition of date from the ECSI systems."

Theis told WITI he believes the error did have a negative impact on his credit score. However, his score has been slowly improving since the error was discovered.