How to Defeat a Collection Agency
So you fell behind on your credit card payments. You are not alone. Due to this economy, late payments and credit card defaults on the rise. If you fall behind over 90 days, the credit card company will likely sell your debt to a collection agency. Collection agencies buy debts from credit card companies for pennies on the dollar. This means most of the money paid to collection agencies go straight to them.
Agents at these collection agencies are often very aggressive at pursuing these debts. This is because they get a commission based on how much money they can extort from the people they call.
If you are being harassed by a collection agency, you don't have to put up with it. You can fight back! The best way to do this is to dispute the debt. Even if the debt is yours, you can challenge the collection agency to prove they can legally collect the debt from you. Here is some easy, step by step instructions on how to proceed:
1. Obtain a copy of your credit report. You can go to annualcreditreport.com to get a free report from each of the credit bureaus once per year. Dispute the debt you want to challenge with the credit bureaus.
2. The collection agency has 30 days (45 days if you file a dispute online) from the time the credit bureau receives your dispute to respond. If they don't respond in time, the negative entry gets removed from your report. However, in most cases the collection agency will respond, and the negative account comes back as "verified". Due to the amount of disputes the credit bureaus receive, they use an automated system and do not do a full investigation. All the collection agency has to do is say "Yes, they do owe the debt", and the credit bureau will keep the negative entry in your report. This is not fair to consumers. The credit bureau and collection agencies hope that you will give up at this point. Don't quit now! Proceed to step 3.
3. Write the collection agency and let them know you dispute the debt. Ask them to provide copies of the contract signed by you, and ask them to provide a copy of the contract between them and the original creditor. Request they send you documentation on how they calculated the debt, and ask them to provide proof that they are licensed to collect in your state. Basically, you want to be as much of a pain in the rear to them as you can. Demand that they remove the negative listing from your credit report if they cannot comply. Send this letter certified, return receipt requested. This way you have proof that you sent this letter to them if you decide to sue at a later time.
4. Wait up to 30 days for a response. In most cases the collection agency will send you an account statement and hope that you go away. If the collection agency does not respond to your letter, or doesn't produce all the documents you requested, proceed to step 5.
5. File a complaint with your State Attorney General's office and the Federal Trade Commission. Explain that the collection agency is in violation of the FDCPA by reporting your debt to the credit bureaus without properly validating it. The FTC won't get involved with individual complaints, but may fine a company if lots of people file grievances against a corporation. Your State Attorney General's office will either handle the complaint or forward it to the regulatory agency that deals with collection agencies.
6. Once a collection agency sees that your complaint is filed with these organizations, the vast majority of them will remove the listing from your report. They would rather do that than risk being sued or being fined heavily.
If the collection agency still won't cooperate, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit against them. Use this as a last resort after you have exhausted all other options.
Collection agents are scumbags and their companies should be put out of business. If enough people fight against them, we can make that a reality.
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