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Collection Agency Help Please

Valued Member

Collection Agency Help Please

I've spent the past two years working my butt off to repair my credit after a cataclysmic BK, and have had tremendous success, in part due to this board. HOWEVER, out of the blue, I discovered a Collection Account on my credit report, reflexively called the collection agency, and learned that they have been sending their letters to a PO Box I closed two years ago when I moved, and a cell phone I disconnected at the same time. I informed them of this, and offered to pay in full (without even verification, I was so desperate), if they would delete the report, which they refused. They claim I may have simply ignored their letters and hung up on their calls. I offered to show them a lease in a different city than their address, and a new cell phone in that city, and possibly to prove the other was disconnected two years ago. They said that was of no interest.

I need to know what is a reasonable standard for locating a debtor. If you Google my name, I'm the very first entry, so I'm easy to find! The credit bureaus have my correct address, so they probably could have gotten it there as well. The CA claims they have no obligation to do any of these things, though they advertise "skip tracing" on their web site.

I sent them a DV letter, which I copied the three credit bureaus on, and contacted the FTC as well as the California agency presumably in charge of these agencies. One of my problems is the agency is in Boston, and I'm in LA, so I don't know jurisdiction for a suit. So far, they've ignored my DV altogether. It is my understanding as part of the DV process they need to cease and desist all collection efforts, which would include reports to the credit bureaus. They have not withdrawn their report, or responded to me, but they still have some time in the 30 day window.

I would like to know if there is any way to force them to cooperate, namely, to withdraw their complaint until I'm given a reasonable chance to pay up, provided they are able to prove the debt. They debt appears to be an old medical lab bill--perhaps insurance didn't pay, I don't know. And, if they fail to prove, how do I enforce their obligation to withdraw their complaint? They may simply claim I have no right to the DV process, since I didn't respond to their initial letters; they don't seem to care that I didn't receive any of those letters, and basically blamed me for not maintaining a forwarding address with the PO for two years (which would cost about $20/month), and for somehow not answering a phone I disconnected two years ago.

I am very frustrated, and feel very helpless in this. I do not want this to take forever, as in the meantime, my credit is trashed; for example, Pentagon FCU turned down my request for a card, which I'm sure I otherwise would have received. I have no interest in a "paid" collection on my credit report; that is marginally better than an "unpaid" one; I need it to be withdrawn. Had these bozos actually contacted me, and substantiated their claim, I would have paid, and things never would have reached this point.

Thank you.
Message 1 of 6
New Contributor

Re: Collection Agency Help Please

Here's my suggestion...

I might be inclined to try at least one more phone call. I suggest that you lead with "I have a bill with you that I'd like to pay," so that you get off on the right foot. Then follow that up with "Imagine my surprise when the first news I received of this was when it appeared on my credit report" and "There seems to have been some sort of mistake" and "I really hope you can help me here" and "I'm very concerned about the impact this is having on my credit," all the while reminding them of your willingness to pay, yet being polite-but-firm regarding the fact that you know they screwed up by sending this to the wrong address. You realize they've made a mistake, but nonetheless, you'd be happy to pay this bill and not pursue the matter further if only they would remove it from your credit report. You understand that mistakes can happen, but you just don't want to pay the price for theirs.

Perhaps you can speak to a supervisor. It is at least somewhat possible that you talked to a bad egg at the agency, and not that every single employee there is a bad egg...and I'm sure that at the end of the day, they want your money more than they want to make your life (or your credit report) miserable.

If you can contact the original creditor, perhaps they could help straighten this out (and perhaps they could clarify if your insurance refused to pay the bill, or what).

If the phone calls aren't successful, you could try following up with letters to each, telling the same story. Having it all spelled out on a piece of paper might cause someone to pause long enough to consider what you're saying.

I think that one of the hardest parts of this is that this sort of thing doesn't fall into one of the common dispute categories, like "this isn't mine" or "the amount is wrong," so I don't know if disputing with the CRA would help. Of course, don't indicate to the CA that you're not sure what avenue to take, only that you're clear that the mistake was theirs, and that you would "win" if you were to "pursue" this. Politely.

I've found a couple of things like this on my credit reports in the last year or so, which I wouldn't have known about any other way. I eventually got them all removed from the reports with a huge amount of persistence, calling back to get a fresh start with a different CSR, asking for a supervisor, etc...and a payment, of course. I even got one CA to agree to remove something several months after I'd paid them. They want the money, of course, but not every rep feels a need to make your life miserable in the process. A message of "I'd have been happy to pay this, if I'd only known about it, and I will be happy to pay it today" is a really different message than they'll be getting from most of their calls, and at least some of the employees will be willing to recognize it for what it is.

Good luck.

Message Edited by meadmaker on 04-29-2008 07:52 AM
Message 2 of 6
Valued Member

Re: Collection Agency Help Please

Meadmaker: I very much appreciate all the time you put into your detailed reply.
The fact is, you pretty much summed up my initial call to them: I called with the full intent to pay them in return for them removing the report. I was quite surprised to discover they had no interest whatsoever in getting paid, relative to the dubious joy of screwing up my credit. We are talking about $900 here, and I offered it to them without any DV at all; they turned me down flat, saying they would only report this as paid, but would not remove it. Their basic premise is they made no error to feel badly about; that they have no obligation to do anything other than what they did, namely attempt to contact me at whatever address they had, and when I didn't reply, they figured I had no interest in paying. When I said I'm here now, they basically said that's nice, but how do we know you weren't there all along?

Further, I was speaking with a supervisor. I don't know who the original creditor is, I have no records of this debt, and they've sent me nothing to back it up. At this point, while it makes sense to go to the original creditor, I can't. If these guys are acting as agent, I'd tell the story to the creditor of how they turned down the cash; but if they bought the debt, then the original creditor probably could care less.

I truly believe I need leverage with these guys, someone to force them to send me a verification of the debt and their right to collect it, and someone to force them to give me a chance to pay the bill, now that I'm aware of it, in return for removal of the report. I have no interest in a "paid" collection on my report due to their error and basic laziness. Like I said, if you Google my name, I pop up first. How hard was that? I mentioned that to the agency, and they said they don't use Google, that isn't their procedure, and they have no obligation to do anything other than contact me at the address they were given, unless the letters are returned and it becomes obvious that I moved. Presumably, my letters were just thrown away by the PO Box company.

There are lots of posts through out these forums to never call these guys, that this will rarely work to your advantage, but to keep all communication in writing. Personally, I'm not adverse to a call, but I have no reason to believe it will help, they already turned down the cash, and I already spoke to a supervisor.

The fact they have this much power is pretty outrageous.
Message 3 of 6
Valued Member

Re: Collection Agency Help Please

Odd to reply to myself! I received a small package from this agency today, but in included only a cover letter saying I owe the money, plus the original authorization for the medical procedure (which I didn't sign), a copy of the insurance check to Athena (the medical lab), and a response to Athena's dispute of the payment amount. It's worth noting, the were still disputing this until months after I moved, so there is no way I was ever billed for the balance and received it, as the file didn't contain a current address, and mail wasn't forwarded for more than a month or two as it turns out.

First, since I didn't sign the medical procedure authorization, am I even liable for this? Second, the collection agency didn't send much of what was requested, including proof the CA is authorized to handle the collection, that they are licensed in California, that the statute of limitations hasn't run out, and everything else in the DV letter on this site. Presumably I should write them back, requesting the balance of the information, as I'm legally entitled to it, right?

I could also now call the original lab, and either say since I didn't sign the form I'm not liable, or offer to pay if they get the filing removed from my credit report. Or, possibly, use one to get the other.

Any guidance on strategy would help.

Message 4 of 6
Moderator Emerita

Re: Collection Agency Help Please

I've been dealing with something similar, where the OC screwed up the initial billing, insurance wouldn't pay, and OC never re-submitted. I called the insurance company, and they did finally pay, but the CA has updated the info to make it look as if we paid them.

I've been told that my next step is the do the "1-2 punch." Since I barely understand it myself Smiley Very Happy , I don't want to quote it, so here's the link:

Can you figure out from what they sent you why your insurance wouldn't pay initially? I was delighted with the action by our insurance, especially because the company had changed from John Deere to United HealthCare, and they haven't even been our insurance for a good three years. I'm happy because the physician was (finally) paid, but I'm danged if this account will stay on DH's report, when it was the OC that messed up in the first place.
* Credit is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. * Who's the boss --you or your credit?
FICO's: EQ 781 - TU 793 - EX 779 (from PSECU) - Done credit hunting; having fun with credit gardening. - EQ 590 on 5/14/2007
Message 5 of 6
Valued Member

Re: Collection Agency Help Please

Hauling...My situation is somewhat different, in that the insurance paid what they do--probably what the procedure would cost in Tijuana! That probably is their allowable fee for the procedure, regardless of what country you'd have to go to for that price.

What then happened for about 1.5 years is unclear, but finally it ended up with the CA in Boston, which is where the medical lab is that got short paid by my insurance co. I'm in California. Clearly I never received a bill for the difference, and then ultimately this went to collection. They were too lazy to actually find me, so used the old address. I didn't get the letters, but they weren't returned, to they assumed I ignored them, and finally reported me. OK, stupid, lazy, but honest mistakes.

Now the issue begins: I offer to pay if they remove the credit report, and they refuse. I never had a chance to pay, how is this my fault? So, I now have to force the CA to remove this report, and they clearly would rather not get paid than remove it. So, Lazy, Stupid, and Crazy!

I think I'm going to call the original creditor, and see what I can do from that direction. Since I never signed the medical authorization, perhaps I have some leverage; or, perhaps they still own the debt, and would like to get paid!

Message 6 of 6
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