Debt collection is a billion dollar industry.
Anyone can spiral into a serious debt situation. Most heavy debtors report a single or string of unexpected events that led to their debt situation such as an accident, a family members death, divorce, sudden job loss, the birth of a new child, an unprofitable business venture or more catastrophic events such as 9/11 or hurricane Katrina. Debt is not exclusive to the poor and middle class and anyone can find themselves in a financial hole – just ask Donald Trump.
A debt collectors most effective weapon of choice is destroying your credit file. Littering your credit file with their collection accounts keeps your credit score low. Individuals with low credit scores are seen as slow payers or those who dont pay at all. The risk of lending these individuals money or granting credit privilege is higher. With a high risk profile, most prime lenders stay away. Collectors know that eventually you need to have credit and muscling those with low credit scores becomes easy.
CONSUMER BEWARE – These are some of the sneakiest, low down dirty, show me the money tactics that collection agencies use to keep consumers credit poor.
1. What Default Judgment ?- If you have recently pulled your credit report and have found judgments from collection agencies you have NEVER heard from or have not been served a summons to appear in court, join the club. Essentially what they do is NEVER serve you the summons and get someone from a judicial service agency whom they are directly affiliated with no less, to attest that they did serve you the summons to appear in court. This way, you never know about the legal proceedings against you and they in turn get an easy default judgment.
Good for them, bad for you. The judgment allows them to freeze your bank
accounts, garnish your wages and put a lien against your property until the alleged debt is paid. Talk to or hire an attorney, do some research of your own on how you can legally defend yourself (in your state) against the judgment and then get down to the courthouse.
2. The Name Game – Without any other evidence other than a similar name and address, collection agencies will report other peoples bad debt to your credit file. If youre a Jr., or share your grandmothers name, or you know of another John Smith that lives two towns over – watch out. Two matching fields is all it takes for the debt to appear on your report.
Check your reports frequently and if you find yourself in this situation, request in writing a validation of the debt, with the collection agency and then dispute the account with the credit bureaus. If the collection agency cannot prove that you are the correct party then the credit bureau should immediately remove the entry.
3. Peek-a-Boo A collection account is on your credit report then it magically disappears. Three months later its back on your credit report. Can you say SCORE SUPPRESSION? Each time a collection agency reports a bad account to your credit report, your score can drop anywhere from 50 to over 100 points. If they remove the negative account and then report it again, your fico score of 690 can suddenly become 572. Each time they remove then re-report the account, your fico score takes a dive.
At this point you should have written them to request validation; that you are in
fact the correct party with regard to the account. If they cannot prove that the
account belonged to you, that you owe the amount stated, or if the account is past the statue of limitations (SOL) for them to file suit against you, start putting your case together and haul them into court for purposefully damaging your credit. Yes, you can sue a collection agency!
Have a good consumer advocate lawyer look over your case. Any letters from
you or your attorney should always be mailed Certified Mail – Return Receipt
Requested. A strong paper trail is always best when going up against a collection agency. Show proof of their damages by always obtaining hard copies of your credit reports directly from all four credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, Equifax, Innovis) and any denial of credit letters you received during the times they repeatedly reported an unsubstantiated collection account to your credit reports. Never use credit report references obtained from an internet resource as your evidence.
4. Same Debt – New Account and Amount Owed – Account# 96584842 for $395 has been successfully removed from your credit report, but now two months later there is a new account# 965848421 for $402 on your credit report. Either the collection agency has sold the debt to a new collector or they want to keep the debt on your report for as long as they can – by any means necessary.
5. Two for ONE That is two collection agencies or attorneys trying to collect on the same debt at the same time. ILLEGAL. They know its against the law but they are counting on the fact that YOU dont know its against the law. Now you know. If you have received two collection letters from two different agencies/attorneys within a 30 day period, attempting to collect on the same debt, kindly respond to them in writing alerting them of the simultaneous situation and ask them for proof that they in fact own and can collect on the account, but never name the other agency involved, to prevent colluding.
6. The Posers You received a letter in the mail from what looks like a reputable law firm offering to help you with your debt situation. It doesnt read like a collection letter so you call and set up an appointment to come into their office to discuss your particular situation. They look at your paperwork for two minutes then they say Why dont you just pay them? or We can work with these collection agencies/attorneys to get you a settlement deal. Kindly say thank you and leave. Chances are they dabble in debt collection too.
7. Youve been PRE-APPROVED! It looks like a credit offer. The envelope has a big Visa or Mastercard symbol with Youve Been Pre-Approved splashed across the front. So you open it. As youre reading you begin to realize that it is not a serious credit offer at all but an offer to have an old debt put on a credit card from anyone bank. Guess who they are in cahoots with? Thats right anyone collection agency. If youve been one of the unfortunate individuals who has accepted this offer, you may have unintentionally negated your right to have proof of the debt, but you are probably paying up to three times as much more for the debt, than its original amount. If you feel you were not clear on the details of the agreement and you dont owe the debt, consult a consumer advocate attorney.
The U.S. government has enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to offer consumers relief from debt in dire times but many collection agencies did not get the memo. A collection agencys best tactic is what you as the consumer DO NOT KNOW about debt collection and credit reporting. Every single one of the methods stated above are unethical and some illegal, but are still used to collect millions of dollars from uninformed consumers every day. One or any combination of these tactics can keep you credit poor for many years.
Dont wait until you need to buy a house, car or other big ticket items that rely on credit approval before dealing with the collection accounts on your credit report. Start today by requesting your credit report from all four credit bureaus Experian, Transunion, Equifax and Innovis then do some serious research through books – your700creditscore.com, forums – creditboards.com, and with consumer advocate attorneys – naca.net on immediately improving your credit situation.