The other day when I played back the messages on my answering machine there was a call from a collection agency. The message said the normal stuff that I was seriously delinquent and that if I don’t immediately contact them and submit a payment my credit rating would be ruined. Normally, if I get a call like that I know it’s bogus and I don’t even return it. However, I thought for research purposes I would call and try to find out what the story was.
When I contacted the debt collection company they did tell me the name of the company that supposedly I owed money to. I recognize the company as my old cable provider. I had not used that cable provider for a decade. In addition, I never in the last decade have received an invoice from that company and, in fact, when I did use their service I was on an automatic billing program where they deducted the payment directly from my checking account. Therefore, I knew that I did not owe the money. I told the rather forceful person on the phone that I doubt the legitimacy of the bill and that before I would proceed further I would need a copy of the original bill. Not surprisingly, I have yet to receive a copy of the bill. In fact, I don’t think I ever will.
There is no doubt that there are legitimate collection agencies that attempt to collect debts on behalf of companies. Sometimes these companies will buy old account receivables that companies have written off and attempt to collect. However, it doesn’t mean that just because a collection agency contacts you they are legitimate or even if they are legitimate, that the underlying debt is valid. It is always important to remember that despite their threats and strong-arm tactics, you do have rights. Therefore, no one should let a collection agency intimidate them and convince them to pay a debt that is not there’s.
Collection agencies have both federal and state laws that they must comply with. They include things such as protection against harassing phone calls and phone calls that come all hours of the day. The key if you are being harassed by a collection agency is to have the documentation and proof needed to protect yourself. Therefore, my advice is if you are contacted by a collection agency you should immediately begin to keep a diary. You should keep track of the name of the person who called you, the time and the content of the conversation. Particularly, if they have made any threats , you need to keep track of those. If you decide to pursue an action against the debt collection agency either through legal or administrative action, having the diary will be helpful to you.
One of the threats that collection agencies make is that they will put something on your credit report and ruin your credit scores. Remember, when someone puts something on your credit report you have rights. My advice is that at least once a year you pull your credit reports to see if something has been erroneously added. By going to www.annualcreditreport.com you can get a free copy of your credit report by each of the three major credit reporting agencies without strings attached.
Of course, we should pay our bills; however, we shouldn’t pay bills that are not ours and you and I should not let some debt collection company, whether legitimate or illegitimate, coerce us into paying a debt that’s not ours.