OOPS! Mesa (Ariz.) Residents Get Wrongful ‘Payment Due’ Letters for False Alarms

Thousands of residents received letters from the city that threatened further punitive action if the bogus outstanding debts were left unpaid.

MESA, Ariz. — How’s this for a false alarm? About 12,000 residents here received an official letter from the city stating they best pony up for their false dispatch fines or face stricter penalties. Only the warning letters were sent mistakenly.

As azfamily.com recently reported, the City of Mesa said a database error led to the “payment due” letters being sent to people with false alarm issues in the past.

The letters, sent in early November, stated the unfortunate recipients “had an outstanding debt owed for false alarms” and that “many of the letters did not contain accurate amounts owed due to an error on our part.”

Alice Nelson is one such resident to receive the letter, which stated she owed $210 in fines for having false alarms on her home security system.

“My first thought was you’re claiming I owe you money, but you’re not saying or giving me any dates,” she told a reporter. “You’re saying you owe this much money as a result of false alarms and you have to pay up.”

The letter also said that if she doesn’t pay up there may be a lien on her property or money taken out of her tax refund. The only problem: Nelson doesn’t owe anything.

Word of the city’s correspondences started to spread on social media.

“All of a sudden people started speaking up and said, ‘Yeah, we got one, too,'” said Nelson. “‘They want $110 from us.’ ‘They want $200 from us.’ All these different amounts.”

Steve Wright with the City of Mesa said there was a database error that led to roughly 12,000 “payment due” letters going out to people with previous false alarm issues.

“We identified what the issue was and put procedures in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Wright. “We are human. We make mistakes and as soon as we realized there was an issue we took steps to resolve it.”

The City of Mesa sent a letter Nov. 15 stating that anyone who received an incorrect invoice should ignore it and apologized for the inconvenience.

The inconvenience will cost taxpayers several thousand dollars, according to the report.

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