Managing Debt

Know Your Rights: How Debt Collectors Could Be Breaking the Law

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A strong federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices. It applies only to outside, or third-party debt collectors (not creditors collecting their own debts) and only for personal (not business) debts. State laws may provide additional protection.

In its 2013 annual report to Congress about debt collection complaints, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau described collection complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission. In 2012, the FTC received 125,136 complaints about debt collectors — down from 144,451 in 2011. A complaint does not mean a law has been broken, and some complaints may be the result of overseas debt collection scammers who harass consumers.

A collection account can have a major credit score impact. If you’ve been contacted by a collector and are worried your credit is being hurt, you can check two of your credit scores for free on

1. Calling You Repeatedly to Annoy or Harass You

Number of complaints: 37,543

The law: Collectors can’t call repeatedly just to harass you. (However there is no specific number of calls that they can make within a given time period. That’s left up to the courts to decide.) If you think a debt collector is calling too often, start making a record of every time they call and any messages they leave.

2. Trying to Collect More Than You Owe

Number of complaints: 9,034

The law: Debt collectors may be allowed to charge interest on debts they are collecting. But they can’t charge more than the amount described in the original contract or what is permitted by law.
In other words, they can’t illegally inflate debts. But that doesn’t mean some don’t try!

3. Fail to Send a Written Notice of the Debt

Number of complaints: 26,139

The law: Within five days of initially contacting you, the collector must send written notice of the debt that includes:

  • The amount of the debt
  • The name of the original creditor to whom the debt is owed
  • A statement describing your right to dispute the debt

4. Threatening Violence

Number of complaints: 3,312

The law: Debt collectors may not threaten violence when collecting debts. Period.

5. Threatening Dire Consequences

Number of complaints: 30,470

The law: Collectors can’t threaten a lawsuit, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, or to ruin your credit rating unless they have the legal authority to do so, and intend to do so. These threats are often illegal. Collectors must usually take you to court first and win before they can take these kinds of actions — if they are legal in the first place.

6. Using Obscene, Profane or Abusive Language

Number of complaints: 13,329

The law: Obscene, profane or abusive language—including racial slurs—is illegal. Debt collector going overboard? Take notes and tell them you’ll be taping the conversation.

7. Calling Before 8 a.m. or After 9 p.m.

Number of complaints: 8,166

The law: Collectors may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (unless you’ve given them permission to do so), or at times you’ve told them are inconvenient.

8. Revealing Debt to Third Parties

Number of complaints: 16,679

The law: Collectors can call third parties such as family, neighbors, friends or co-workers only to locate the debtor. When they do, they can’t reveal the debt and there are limits on repeated calls.

9. Calling You at Work After You’ve Told Them to Stop

Number of complaints: 14,482

The law: If you tell a collector not to call you at work to discuss the debt, those calls must stop. And debt collectors cannot discuss debts with co-workers except in very limited circumstances (when executing a legal wage garnishment, for example).

10. Failing to Verify Disputed Debts

Number of complaints: 9,814

The law: If you dispute a collection account in writing, the collector must stop trying to collect until it provides written verification of the debt.

11. Ignoring Cease Communication Requests

Number of complaints: 4,928

The law: Consumers have the right to tell a debt collector, in writing, to stop contacting them. Once the debt collector gets that notice, contact must stop, except to send notification of legal action against the debt collector.

How to Get Help

If you think a debt collector has broken the law, you can:

  • Complain to the CFPB and your state attorney general, and/or
  • Contact a consumer law attorney. You may be entitled to damages and/or attorney’s fees.

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Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Jill Burkett

    For over a year I have received calls from a hospital for collections in the name of Karen Hornbeck. I have told them over and over that my name is Jill Burkett, and I have had this cell phone number for about 8 years, please stop calling me. Now a collection agency is calling me. I told them the same thing but I’ll bet you $100.00 they will call me again. What is my recourse on this, should I get an attorney?

    • Gerri


      A consumer law attorney may be willing to help you for free. If the debt collector is found to be violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the collection company has to pay your attorney’s fees. If you can’t get them to stop contacting you, you may want to reach out for help.

      • http://thisone jennifer

        if i may please ask,could you let me know the web site for the lawyer for free thank you

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Jennifer – you can try You’ll have to ask any attorneys you reach through that site how they charge, but many attorneys who take these kinds of cases offer a free consultation, and will take the case at no charge if they think it is a good one.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Funny you should ask Jill, I just wrote that story! Here you go:

  • Phillip Rhinehardt

    I get calls from Capital One from time to time over a debt thats over 10 years old. Can i sue them for harassment?

    • Joe B.


      You cannot sue for harassment for calling to collect on a time-barred debt. They may be breaking other laws when they speak to you (or leave messages). However, they cannot sue YOU to obtain a judgment against you once the statute of limitations has been reached.

      • Gerri Detweiler


        I beg to differ. I am not an attorney, but am familiar with these issues. Collection agencies sue consumers to collect time-barred debts all the time. The problem is that most times consumers don’t know their rights and never respond. The collector gets a default judgment and then can often go after wages, bank accounts, etc. That’s why it is so important for debtors to know their rights.

        And Phillip – you may be able to use a debt collector if it misrepresents the nature or status of the debt. Creditors collecting their own debts are not covered by the FDCPA, however there may be state laws that apply. Check with an attorney for advice.

        In no event should a 10 year old collection account be on your credit reports Phillip, unless there is a judgment.

      • Tammy

        What is the statute of limitations?

        • KevinS


          The Statute of Limitations is a basic legal doctrine stating that certain matters, both civil and criminal, cannot be brought before a court of law after a certain time has passed from the date of the alleged offense. The idea is that necessary evidence may no longer be available, witnesses’ memories of the events degrade with time, and so either or both sides of the case may have insufficient means to plead their case. It becomes a big waste of the court’s time, and a popular method of abuse of the legal system.

          The time limit under the Statute depends on the type of tort action or criminal offense, as well as the applicable jurisdiction and various other concerns. Check your own jurisdiction’s statutes to determine the time limit that a creditor has for filing suit to collect an outstanding debt.

          Understand that what Gerri said is exactly correct; even if the suit is filed outside the time limit, if the Defendant does not answer the suit, a default judgement is entered in favor of the Plaintiff in the full amount of the damages and attorney’s fees, which then becomes a legally-binding debt again and “resets the clock” with a new time limit and added assistance provided by government agencies to recover the judgement amount.

          Also be aware that the court serving the local area of your residence or workplace is not necessarily the one in which the case is filed; a debt collector can sue in any court having two types of jurisdiction, personal (the court must have authority over one or both parties based on where those parties are located or have done business) and subject matter (the court must be able to hear the type of case being brought to it).

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Phillip – Talk with a consumer attorney. You can visit to find one. If you have a good case the attorney may take it on a contingent fee basis, which means there is no fee unless you recover.

  • J.F.

    Can a collection agency re-age the purge from date on a credit report? I had a collection on my credit report that was scheduled to be removed on 3/2010. I checked my credit report in 3/2010, and noticed the date had been changed to 8/2011. I have repeatedly contacted all three credit bureaus, and they refuse to remove this account stating it is accurate. This account was opened, and closed while I was living in California. I now reside in Houston, and can only assume that the date was changed due to the fact that the statute of limitations is different in TX. The account first went delinquent in 2003, and after the collection agency changed of date on my credit report, it reflected the date of last activity. I called to ask about this, and they stated I had made a payment in 9/2003. Is this legal? What statute of limitations would this account fall under, CA or TX?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    J.F. – Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, a collection account may be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor, period. That date cannot be changed just because you don’t pay the bill, or because it is sold to another collection agency.

    If they collection agency changes the date in order to report the information longer than is legally allowed, it may be breaking federal law (as well as state law).

    In addition, under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are not allowed to misrepresent the character or status of a debt. This means that the debt collector who changed the date on this account could potentially be breaking two federal laws, as well as any state laws that apply. If a debt collector violates the FDCPA and you successfully sue, you may be entitled to both damages as well as your attorney’s fees.

    I would recommend you go ahead and contact a consumer law attorney in Texas who has experience with debt collection and credit damage cases. You can visit to locate a consumer law attorney in your area.

    Do let us know how this turns out.

    • Genee

      It’s 2012 & I’m having a similar frustration with re-aged accounts in CA that are being sold to new collection agencies over and over again as “currently delinquent”, even though the original debts are medical bills from more than 7 years ago. Can you reference which parts of FDCPA this violates?

      • Gerri Detweiler


        The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the law that addresses how long collection accounts may be reported. It says:

        Here’s the language from the FCRA:

        (4) Accounts placed for collection or charged to profit and loss which antedate the report by more than seven years.

        (c) Running of Reporting Period
        (1) In general. The 7-year period referred to in paragraphs (4) and (6) of subsection (a) shall begin, with respect to any delinquent account that is placed for collection (internally or by referral to a third party, whichever is earlier), charged to profit and loss, or subjected to any similar action, upon the expiration of the 180-day period beginning on the date of the commencement of the delinquency which immediately preceded the collection activity, charge to profit and loss, or similar action.

        The FDCPA doesn’t specifically address this issue but, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, it says that:

        § 807. False or misleading representations
        A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application
        of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this

        (2) The false representation of—
        (A)the character, amount, or legal status of any debt;

        If you believe these collection accounts are not being properly reported, my suggestion is that you talk with a consumer law attorney who regularly helps consumers with credit report/debt collection problems. If the attorney thinks you have a good case, it may help you for free since the collection agency (or agencies) would have to pay your attorney;s fees.

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  • Credit Cards Lawsuit

    Although I had spoken to many debt collection agencies regarding the fair practice of debt collection but founds some wrong event every time, the issues introduced by Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by being very informative and valuable to know the brief details of the complaints against the debt collection process.

  • Jason

    I had no idea the large cut agencies took. I own a small business and have to collect payment from a client, I tried to be civil but at this point I have to move on with my business. Is there anything else i should be looking at with these companies besides their success percentage?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You may want to look into taking them to small claims court yourself. If you have solid documentation that they owe the debt, and think they can pay, then it might be the best way to go. Just remember that winning your case is only the first step. You’ll then have to try to collect on the judgment.

      • KevinS

        If you win, you will have some help. This debt is now a court-mandated judgement, and a judge can direct various government agencies to assist you in collecting. The primary enforcer of these types of legal judgments is usually the Constable’s office, which has the power to confiscate property, perform evictions, etc in accordance with a judgment. Sometimes it simply falls to the local police if there isn’t a specific office. The judge himself will, if he sees it is necessary, issue an order for wage garnishment that will be delivered to the defendant’s employer. If the defendant is self-employed, the order can garnish their bank account. This can take time; usually you have to give the defendant an opportunity to make good on the judgement on their own before taking these measures.

  • c hopper

    can a process server give the paper work to my neighbor how is my mother in law

  • jerry carter

    Would you believe this !!!!. Two years ago I had spinal survey. while recovering from the surgery, I fould a note on my door stating the the sheriffs department needed to come into my apartment. When I called they stated they had to come into my apartment and take inventory of ALL my belongs from furniture to underwear so that the lawyer’s office/collection agency could sell all my belongings at a sheriff’s sales to help pay off the debt. Oh yea, the debt was 14 Years OLD. !!!! I had to hire an attorney to stop this from happening. The statue of limitions in PA is 4 years.

  • Dennis

    I had a collection agency collect from me, but instead of paying the debt they moved across state borders and never paid the debt.Now they keep selling the same debt to other debt collectors as an unpaid debt. How do i resolve this matter?

    • Gerri

      Dennis – Do you have proof that you paid the debt originally?

  • Kellie

    I have an old debt can’t even remember what from it has changed collections compaines serveral times. I wrote them a certified letter stating under laws that the statue of limitations ran out, they sent me back a letter stating I would no longer hear from them, but they under law put on my credit report and another collection company now has it and basicly starts all over again. I don’t understand…!

    • KevinS

      If the statute has expired, they cannot sue to collect. However, the debt can still be on your credit report for a period of 7 years from the date the account was first placed for collections. This clock does not reset, and after 7 years you can contact the credit bureaus to remove it, unless the collection agency can show that in any of your contact with any collections agency along the way, you made any arrangements to pay. That establishes a “date of contact” that advances the date of delinquency, effectively extending the statute of limitations.

      As far as notifying the collector that they cannot contact you, however, that notice AFAIK only applies to a specific collector; if they sell the debt to another agency, that agency is not bound by that notice because they are not the ones who received it. So, you are stuck telling each collection agency that buys your debt that they are SOL and you do not wish to be contacted.

  • Kristi D

    This article is not very accurate, I myself am a credit card collector and a lot of these may only illegal depending on the state you live in, trust me, I have to memorize them all!

    • Mel

      In early September 2012 I received a phone call at work from someone at a police department informing me that they would be sending a sheriff to my job (a school) to serve me papers. I obviously asked what it was regarding and was told that I was being sued but did not have any other information. The person on the phone gave me a phone # and case # for a collection company called LPSG. I called the company and was told that they were suing me due to an unpaid credit card I had in 2006 (so within the statute). I agreed to pay the inflated balance (from 1084.00 to 2285.00) and was told I would receive verification in the mail and that they would update my credit report etc. I still have never received anything in the mail but was sent an email stating that I had paid the balance. I checked my credit report today and was alarmed to see that nothing has been updated. The debt was valid and after many phone calls I was able to discover that the debt had indeed been sold to LPSG. I have called to ask why my credit report is not reflecting the change but no one ever answers. Can I do anything about this? Don’t they HAVE to change the report so it says paid?


        Hi Mel — If the collection agency isn’t responding your best bet would be to dispute the collection directly with the credit reporting agencies. Under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) they have 30 days to investigate the dispute and update the record to accurately reflect that the collection was paid. When you file a dispute, make sure you include copies of all documentation as ‘proof’ that it was paid. If the collection agency doesn’t respond to the investigation within the 30 days, the bureaus must remove it from your credit report. (Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, their negligence would actually work in your favor because no collection is better for your credit scores than a paid collection.)

        Here’s a great resource on how to file a dispute on your credit report: A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

      • James

        Hello Mel,

        You should see if the ORIGINAL creditor or the collection agency is on your credit profile. Take the letter that you have gotten showing you paid it and dispute through the credit reporting agencies. They will update your dispute MUCH faster than they will from a collection agency. I have seen it take up to six months for a collection agency to get the reporting agencies to do anything. However they can only string you along for thirty days after you file a dispute! Good luck to you mel!

  • julie allyn

    This is a predatory lending case. AFS-medical billing and receipt paper submitted to small claims showing o balance of 1995 for a spend down after paid cash after a lost check. i’VE BEEN TO COURT AND told to pay 4x over for same 1991 bill. Conficated is approx $6000 and data entries changed and not marked satisfyed. Transunion has a record of one judgment deleted same case. Between the credit service of Southern Oregon and the Jackson County small claims court….I see unfair 2 federal case laws broken. Gosh, the spend down was only $113.30. The 1st billing was full coverage. I was going to college and I had 2 kids at home in 1991 and my previous health insurance went out of business that I had for 25 years so I got the welfare medical and this is strangely monies going where????????????????

  • julie allyn

    I need garnishment stopped immediately. My company knows that I’ve paid and the previous garnishment, the boss said handle this yourself. The extension of service is for an attorney who told me “I cost $1000 and can retrieve $100 for you however; just pay it again and get them out of your hair and end this. ” I followed his advice and paid it for the 4th time. I am so tired of being taken… Will you end this?

  • http://msn jackie

    can a debt collector charge interest on a debt owed. My debt went from owing less than $2,000 to $10,000. Is this legal?

    • Gerri

      Jackie – debt collectors may be able to charge interest on a debt, but how much they can charge is governed by state law and the contract with the creditor. This debt sounds like it has been largely inflated and it’s possible the amount being charged is not legal. How old is this debt? When did you last make a payment on it? What state do you live in?

  • Marie

    I had a debt collector call about a debt from a surgery which was over 35,000.00.
    They told me that with the interest added to it would make the total amount oweing more than 70,000.00! Is this legal? If I couldn’t pay the 35,000.00 how would I ever be able to pay 70,000.00!

    • Gerri


      As I replied to Jackie above, collectors can typically charge interest on debts, but the amount they can charge depends on state law and your contract with the creditor. However, even if the debt collector has inflated the debt, that alone isn’t likely to wipe out the original debt. This is a very large debt and since you haven’t been able to pay it, I would recommend you see a bankruptcy attorney to find out if you need to consider filing. The other thing to ask the attorney is whether the statute of limitations has expired on the debt. If you haven’t made any payments for several years, it’s possible that the collection agency can no longer sue you to collect.

  • Raymond

    What I have learned from all of this stuff, is when a collector calls.Is to tell them that this call is being recorded, and most times they will either hang up, or just talk about that is what can be done to pay off this dept.

  • http://yahoo LINDA W


    • Gerri Detweiler

      Linda, so sorry to hear about your husband’s illness. It must be terribly stressful. Two options you should look into – negotiating settlements or bankruptcy. I know they are not ideal but they can be appropriate for these kinds of situations.

  • christina ohlinger

    My daughter and her x-boyfriend got a loan, it was supposed to be used for her college but it was used for things he needed to fix up his home. The plan was they were going to get married,but as soon as the money was spent, he kicked her out. She got the loan and he co-signed for it,the he got another girlfriend and he said he wasn’t paying another dime. She is struggling to pay for it and he is going on with his life. What can she do to make him pay his share? What is his obligation? Would it be in her best interest to let it go delinquit because her credit is already ruined because of this loan. He changed his phone numbers so they can’t call him so they call her all the time or her parents.

    • KevinS

      It depends on who is the “primary” signatory to the loan, if there is one. It also depends on the jurisdiction all of this happened in.

      Typically, all co-signers are treated as equal when pursuing a debt, and any one of them can be pursued for the full amount. Typically creditors will go to whomever they can reliably contact. Your daughter, if she has any information regarding how to contact her ex, can refer the creditor to her ex with what she has and state that she does not wish to be contacted. The creditor, if it’s the original creditor, does not have to stop calling her and generally does not have to comply with the FDCPA. The creditor can still place the account in collections (the collections agency *does* have to play by the FDCPA’s rules), can still sue to collect, and doesn’t have to involve her ex in any of these proceedings.

      It’s possible, depending on jurisdiction, that your daughter can sue her ex for damages arising from his failure to pay. It would have been best if the two of them had signed their own contract at the same time that they signed for the loan, agreeing to split the payments 50-50. Because they didn’t, all she has is what amounts to a verbal contract, and unless it was witnessed by someone willing to testify it’s he-said-she-said. Again, the creditor really doesn’t care; one signatory to the loan can be held liable for the full amount of it, and your daughter is in their crosshairs.

  • Bevo

    Hi! Hopefully people still look at this and can maybe give me an idea of what direction I should take.

    Today (5/1/12) I received a call from a debt collector. He said it was from a CitiBank account that was active from 1999-2002. Now, I don’t remember having a CitiBank card, but it’s not out of the question (I was young and stupid during that time). Anyway, I told the guy that I never had an account with them and to quit calling. He had my former address, obviously my phone number and he wanted me to give him the last 4 of my SSN. The weird thing is, I’ve recently opened two new credit accounts in an effort to rebuild what I destroyed 10+ years ago and have used my new address. Wouldn’t they have my new address and not keep referring to my previous address?

    Last time that I looked at my credit report, I know for a fact that there wasn’t a CitiBank account on any of the three reports. Now I’m reading something about statute of limitations on these things? I never told the guy that I had an account and if I truly did have an account, I haven’t paid on it for God knows how long.

    I’m from Texas (lived here all my life expect from 2007-2009) and the collection agency that has called is Allied Interstate, Inc (Intellirisk) – at least that’s what the comes up when I Google the phone number.

    Any advice?

    • Gerri Detweiler


      While I am not an attorney and can’t give you legal advice, I can tell you that the statute of limitations for most consumer debts in Texas is four years. In addition, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act collection accounts may not be reported seven years and 180 days after the date that you first fell behind with the original creditor.

      You’re probably dealing with a debt buyer who bought a very old debt and is hoping to collect. You have the right under the FDCPA to tell a collector not to contact you again. Just ask the collector for its mailing address or fax number, then send or fax a letter stating the facts: You have no knowledge of this debt, and even if it were your debt it’s far too old for them to collect it. Instruct them not to contact you again.

      If they do try to collect after they have received your letter, talk with a consumer law attorney.

  • Bekka

    I’m in Texas and was just wondering can a debt collector call you on sunday? i heard they couldnt but i’ve been misinformed before. Thanks

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Bekka –

      I am not aware of any law that prohibits debt collectors from calling on Sunday. Generally debt collectors can’t call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. or at a time you’ve told them is inconvenient (for example, you work nights and ask them not to call until after 1 pm). You may want to check with the Texas Attorney General’s office for more information.

  • Macey

    I had a bill go to collection in 2009 because they did not change my forwarding address and when I would call to pay they would tell me my account was up to date. I paid the debt two months later in May 2009 when the collection agency called. The collection is just now showing up on my credit report. Can they wait 3 years before reporting that? Any help is appreciated!

    Thank you.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Collection accounts may be reported for 7.5 years from the date you fell behind with the original creditor. But this is the first I’ve heard of a collector waiting three years to report a collection account! You might try disputing it. If it’s not confirmed it will be removed. Otherwise you may have to go after the original creditor because they turned it over to collections after telling you that your account was up to date. I describe the principal behind that approach in this article: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

  • Clarity

    I have a question. Recently I learned that I have had my SS stolen which someone used to get my tax return. I went through all the processes; ie, filed complaint with local police, called the FTC and IRS to file complaints and put on extended ID protection with Equifax who in turn notifies the other major credit bureaus. Since this time, I received a copy of my credit report where I have existing accounts. There are some accounts from as early as 2000 that are still reporting. The weird thing is the DOLA is blank. I read here that some of these ghost dates or N/A are somewhat common. I live in Southern California and have a few debts that are mine a couple that are not and then approximately NINE student loan debts that were split out to various third party collectors, (The ones that have no DOLA). Ironically, I have not attended college since 2004 yet some of the dates showing when the reporting started is as late as 2008 and 2011. If this is the case, I am horrified that I will have an even poorer credit score. When I file a dispute with the credit reporting agency, what is the write citing from the FDCPA to use? Moreover, what other information can I used to get these things off my report? I cannot afford or care to use a contingency lawyer. I just want to clean up my report. Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Gerri

      Cleaning up your credit report after id theft can be extraordinarily time consuming and frustrating as you’re finding out.

      One thing you may want to do is to find out whether you already have free identity theft resolution services available to you through your homeowner’s or auto insurance company. You may have that benefit and not realize it.

      If not, then it is simply a process of disputing mistakes and keeping good records. Sometimes you have to do it more than once.

      There’s no specific statute you need to reference in your dispute. (It would be the Fair Credit Reporting Act that would cover this kind of situation by the way). I wrote another article about how to dispute a credit report mistake. I hope you’ll find it helpful.

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  • Charita

    I have received a letter from a Credit Bureau informing me that they have verified my Employer, by the way, it is not the correct information. At any rate, they say that upon receipt of the letter they expect me to contact them within 5 days from the date of the letter to prevent the recommendation of legal action to their client. With the customary attempt to collect a debt info at the bottom. They give no information as to who the client is but have a balance listed. I called & was informed that it is from October of 2002 for a cash advance company that is no longer in business & they are collecting it for the attorney representing the Cash Advance company! What the heck??? The person who answered the said they can’t find the name of the Attorney & I need to call back tomorrow! This is a credit bureau is not even in the same city I live in. (Illinois) What can I do?

    • Gerri

      Charita –

      Can you please clarify your question. Did you get a letter from a collection agency or a credit bureau? Credit bureaus normally don’t recommend legal action to clients. And collection agencies aren’t allowed to deceive customers by pretending to be credit bureaus when they are not.

      Who exactly sent you this letter? It’s OK to name names! Give us the address they give on this letter too please.

      • Charita

        Gerri, I got the letter from the Credit Bureau of Macoupin County in Carlinville, Il and I live in Springfield, IL. As I stated, they said they are collecting for the attorney for the closed Cash Advance, Inc. Company.

        • Charita

          I forgot the address: Credit Bureau of Macoupin County P.O. Box 524, 368 South Side Square, Carlinville, IL

  • Charita

    I’m sorry I tried to send this earlier but I think my computer hiccupped! I got the letter from a Credit Bureau. The address is Macoupin County Credit Bureau PO Box 524, 368 South Side Square, Carlinville, IL 62636

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  • shane prescott

    just pay your bill

  • maria

    Hello,I have question back in 2008 I lost my job and had to give back my truck.Although only owned 4500 well I received a letter from debt collecter saying I owned 8900 but they stettle for 4,7500 no way u bought 3500 dealership.However,I said I only 2000 pif they came answer no!They won’tacceptonly 4,750.So, trying settle that amount of 2000.any suggestion?I one otherdebt and they worked with.These people jerks Cavalry is the name of collect.

    • Gerri


      You’ll find our responses to your question in the forum here.

    • peg

      First you should always make them validate and prove the balance if any being owed like a deficiency balance because they always resell these and recoup their monies. Also some states do not even allow them to come after you for the balance if they repo’d your vehicle. Demand proof of what the balance was after they resold that vehicle in writing and that you might talk to them after you see that……or you might let your attorney talk to them instead :) my bet is they are trying to scam more off from you and will realize they cannot and leave you alone.

  • http://CREDIT.COM mike

    11 Ways A Debt Collector May Be Breaking the Law +++++++I came to this site to read the list we caught in a google search. but getting on on your page we do not see the 11 items so advertised. Please guide myself to these items as your site is quite busy and do not see the referenced data list………….mike

  • jim

    I had a citibank card that i defaulted on for 5k in 2002 they sold it to a collection agency that hired a law firm that took it to court in 2006. The amount had ballooned to 14k and foolishly i did not appear in court. I agreed to pay them $100/mo which has continued until this yr when for some reason they stopped taking payments from my bank acct. I then received a letter saying that the collection agency had merged with another and i can only think that this was the reason they stopped tking payments. Now the law office wants to take me to court to resume collections on roughly the 8k remaining. Should i resume making payments and try to talk them down on the total or is their any benefit to me going to court and pleading that the original 14k was excessive? Any help, appreciated.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If you are going to try to challenge the original judgment you will likely need the help of an attorney. You can probably get a free consult to figure out if that makes sense. (If the attorney thinks you have a good case it may be worth it – provided you can afford the attorney’s fees).

  • Melissa

    I had a $100 collection account for a medical bill on my credit report that I wanted to pay off. I called the hospital that was listed as the creditor and they said they couldn’t find my account. A day, and about 6 phone calls to various companies, later – I found my debt. It was with a company called NCO Financial. They informed me that my balance was actually $871, a $100 debt for my minor daughter (that I was aware of) and a $771 for myself that I had forgotten about and is NOT listed on my credit report. I paid the $100 and told them the $771 from date-of-service 2005 was past the statute of limitations and that I would not be paying it. The collector told me that the statute of limitations reset when they obtained the debt in 2011. From everything I am reading this is not legal, correct? I paid the $100 (via my credit card instead of my debit card so I would have proof of payment and the protection of my credit card should they try anything funny) and I am waiting 60 days to see if the $100 collection reports as paid on my credit report. I am half expecting the $771 to now resurface on my credit report. Would this also be illegal if it happens? And if so, can I call the credit bureaus and dispute it or would I need to seek legal advice. The debt was incurred in Florida in 2005 and I have resided in Maine since 2008.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Melissa – Good thing you are doing your homework! You are correct in your understanding that the statute of limitations does not restart the statute of limitations. The fact that the debt collector told you that may be illegal since under the FDCPA collectors may not misrepresent the status of the debt.

      And collection accounts may be included on credit reports 7 years and 6 months from the date the original date of delinquency (when you should have paid the medical provider, but failed to do so). So if you received services in the hospital in 2005 and fell behind in 2005/2006 then it’s very close to that limit. So hopefully they won’t report it now and risk reporting it incorrectly. But you should monitor your credit reports just in case.

      If they do continue to try to collect, or report it, it wouldn’t hurt for you to talk with a consumer law attorney. They may be willing to help you for free, because the collection agency will have to pay the attorney’s fees if it turns out they are breaking the law.

  • Scott

    So I just got a phone call from California Service Bureau about my court fine for a DUI last year. I was unable to make a payment back in July 2012, and apparently they suspended my license and added extra charges to my fine for it (350$). Reason being that I lost my job, and had no till recently. Now I’m receiving unemployment. When I talked to Napa Superior Court, they told me that it was all in a contract I signed with them to pay my fine.

    The debt collector told me that if I don’t make a payment by January 30th, they’ll add more to the fine. I think he said something about civil restitution. He was also extremely rude and pushy, even trying to tell me ways to get my unemployment check faster and trying to pressure me into paying immediately. I just made a payment January 10th of 200$, and he told me I owe another 250$ for not making payments.

    I’m not sure if he’s trying to help me or extort me, but he didn’t use any profanity. The number was 888-224-5557. Is there something not right here?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Scott – Sometimes governmental agencies give themselves more powers to collect than they give to businesses. So it may be that they can add additional charges if you don’t pay right away. I also don’t know whether collectors who are collecting court fines are required to follow the Rosenthal Act (a California law) or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (a federal law) but it wouldn’t hurt for you to talk with a consumer law attorney who handles debt collection cases to find out if what they are doing is legal.

  • Scott

    Oh I forgot to mention that according to the court I had the fine with, I made a payment on the January 10th. So I’m also wondering why he’s calling me so soon.

  • Laura

    My husband had a van repossed in 98 . WE are still recieving calls and letters wanting us to pay 10, 000 dollars on it . It’s been 15 years , what can I do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Are you hearing from a collection agency? Multiple collection agencies? What state do you live in?

      • Laura

        We recieved a collection bill in the mail for the debt . It’s only one collection agency .I live in the state of West Virginia .The van was repossed in the state of Tennesse.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Laura – I can’t give you legal advice but it sure appears to me that this debt is outside the statute of limitations. If you believe that’s the case, you can send the collector a “cease contact” letter basically just telling them this debt is too old, don’t contact me again. I’d send it by certified mail and keep a copy for your records.

  • Alison Pinsley

    Is it legal to make collection calls on Sunday to clients? I was called 4 times today, Sunday, by the same company. I made my payment on line, to be sent out tomorrow, and they still continued to call me. I did not take their calls each time, because I knew who they were. I basically told them the first time they called, that I do not take calls at home on Sunday by collection companies.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      There is no specific provision in the FDCPA prohibiting collection calls on Sunday. Though repeated calls on the same day could be considered harassment. However, that law only applies to third party collectors, not to creditors trying to collect their own debts. If it was a collection agency that was calling, you may want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or consult a consumer law attorney.

  • John

    I live in Texas. I am trying to get into a new department and was denied due to a collection on my credit report from prior apartment complex I lived at 3 years ago. I called the old apartment office and was told there had been $606 in pet damage and after my $300 pet deposit I still owed $306. I asked if I could send in a check and they referred me to a collection agency. The “gentleman” that i spoke with claimed they were told the debt was $502 and plus interest they are requesting over $600. It’s my understanding they can’t charge more than the original amount turned over by the apartment or charge interest since interest wasn’t involved in the original contract. Do I have any recourse?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      John – Most states allow for interest on collection accounts, but I am not sure that’s the case here. (Texas has some pro-consumer laws so it’s possible this is one of them.) If you think the collection agency is inflating the amount owed, then you can talk with a consumer law attorney who may help you for free since debt collectors who break the law generally have to pay the attorney’s fees. If you don’t want to go that route, try your state attorney general’s office. And if all that fails, remember collectors are used to negotiating. So stand firm on what you are willing to pay. They no doubt bought that debt for less than the face value and they will still make money even if they collect exactly what you owed at the time it went to collections.

  • Larry

    Hi. I recently reviewed my credit reports from all three bureaus. Having gone through credit issues as a result of divorce in 2006, discovered that debt from 3 creditors (where the last activity took place was between 2005 and 2007) had been “re aged” to 2011 and 2012 through Pinnacle Credit Services, LVNV Funding and AFNI. In fact the debt of $603.00 being reported by Pinnacle was from Verizon Wireless early termination charges in 2006. Verizon had sold that debt to Miracle Financial Inc in 2008 before apparently selling it to Pinnacle who then “re aged” it to 2011. I was involved in a class action dispute in 2008 against Verizon for this and won.

    I have two questions. Is it better to send all my information to all 3 credit bureaus first and have them deal with it? Or should I send letters to all three collection agencies saying I will be filing for damages in Federal court for violating FDCPA Section 605 if the items are not made obsolete or deleted? Thank you for any help you can provide.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Larry – can you explain exactly what you mean by reaged? It is possible for you to share exactly what is listed for these accounts on your credit reports (no account numbers of course)?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Larry – I should add that if you dispute these accounts you must dispute them with the CRAs in order to exercise your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. We wrote about that in this piece: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes.

  • becky

    Sorry if this has been mentioned already, I didn’t read the whole thread.
    I was contacted by a debt collections agency in February 2012 for a debt I had no knowledge of. I had to do a lot of detective work to figure out what happened. A local pathology lab had sent 2 debts to collections after they were unable to contact me. I had never heard of the lab before, as the samples were sent there by two doctors I had seen who had my insurance information. Somehow that insurance information was not sent to the lab, and they tried to pursue me for the debt (I never received any calls or letters), then sent it to collections (somehow the collections agency found me immediately!). I contacted the lab and the collections agency at that time and provided my insurance information.
    Almost a year later, in January 2013, I have once again been contacted by the same collections agency stating I still owe the debt (insurance will not pay because it was not submitted in a timely fashion). I dispute that I am responsible to pay the debt because I never signed an agreement with the lab, and it was an error that the referring doctor’s offices made, not me,
    I have had to make many phone calls about this and tried to dispute it through the lab, but they said now that it is in collections I must deal with it through the agency. I told the collections agency I wanted to dispute it but the debt collector told me that there is no way for me to appeal or dispute it through their office, and then refused to send me a written letter though I requested it. I was told the letter would be emailed, and I never received it. I spoke to another representative 2 weeks later. She informed me that no one ever told me there was no process to dispute it, told me to write them a letter, and again refused to send me a written letter. I have since received an email with the verification information I requested to be mailed to me.
    It seems to me that they have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but I don’t know what to do from here.
    Any advice is welcome

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Becky – The collector is required by law to send you a written notice of the debt within 5 days of initially contacting you. (I am assuming the initial contact was by phone, not in writing?) They have to provide you with a notice about your right to dispute the debt. It sounds like this collection agency is not following the law. I’d suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney about the collection agency.

      As for the medical bill, you have a larger problem. Had your insurance been billed in a timely fashion, you may not have had to pay all or part of that bill. It doesn’t sound like there was any way for you to know what was happening there. I’d suggest you first contact your insurance company. If the lab is a participating provider, then they may not be allowed to “balance bill” you for a bill they didn’t submit to insurance in a timely manner. I’d ask your health insurance company for their assistance with what to do if you are being “balance billed.”

      I wrote more about that issue in these articles: The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems and An Insider’s Guide to Fighting Medical Billing Mistakes

  • Elease

    A collection agency by the name of FMA Alliance called my husbands main headquarters in order to get in touch with him (this is not a number we would ever list on any paperwork as it is not the office he works in), the person who answered told them that they do not take messages or pass personal calls from collection agencies on and to not call. The person on the other end of the line told her they were not a collection agency but it was a business matter they needed him to call on. She googled their name and found out they were a collection agency. We live in Texas and they are calling on a hospital bill we got behind on. What is our recourse of action for the misrepresentation of who they are?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Elease – You can certainly talk with a consumer law attorney. Visit to locate one in your area who takes debt collection complaints.

  • Pingback: How Debt Collectors Know Where You Work | News + Advice()

  • jennifer

    Midland funding keeps calling me wanting me to pay off a debt. They purchased the debt after the s.o.l was up on credit card I had back in 2006. Sol in md is 4 yrs. Its showing on my credit report delinquent since 2009 how can I fix the dates with credit bureau. I tried to dispute they are saying information is correct but I have an old credit report that shows the delinquent account they purchased on it back in 2007

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jennifer –

      I would suggest you call each of the credit reporting agencies that is reporting the account and ask them what they have on file for the original date of delinquency. That’s the date that determines how long these accounts should be reported. Collection accounts may be reported for 7 years and 180 days from when you first fell behind with the original creditor (the card issuer in this case) leading up to when it was charged off and placed for collection. It sounds like that was sometime before 2007 so it should be close to coming off your reports if it doesn’t have to already.

      But again, the various dates can be confusing so I would call the credit reporting agencies and ask about that specific date. If they have it wrong, dispute it in writing. We’ve written about how to do that here: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • katherine

    I have a dept from 2008 i wanted to know if it’s outside of the statute of limitations .I live in California ,it is from a gym that said that I had put my account on hold and then they billed me and put me into overdraft and I tried to cancel my account and they wouldn’t allow me to so want to know if it’s outside the statute of limitations thank you for your help

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Katherine – It sounds like it could be. My understanding is that the state of limitations in California is four years after the last payment. However, this is different than the time it can be reported on your credit reports, which is essentially 7 1/2 years from the date you stopped paying. Please understand I am not an attorney and can’t offer legal advice.

  • deirdre

    I am at a complete loss about how to deal with this debt.

    The debt collection agency has NEVER CALLED OR WRITTEN me! I have called them a few times, and each time they say they’ll get back to me and they don’t.

    Originally, I tried to pay my health club arrears to the club directly. They would not accept any money from me – even though it was just 2 months overdue (my credit card renewed and i forgot to give them the new number). No one would return my calls – this went on for a month. Finally, I was told to contact the collection agency. When I did, the agency had no reference of me, said they’d get back to me. I waited another month – still I could not pay. I called again – still they had nothing from the club. This went on for months.

    Finally, When I called the agency one day, I was told the health club never forwarded my debt to them. (Yet, the club refused payment from me!) I didn’t even know how much I owed. The collection agency NEVER told me or sent me a letter.

    Then last fall, I was given a sum total of which over a third was agency fees. I wrote the agency a letter, stating that I was not going to pay agency fees when they never did anything, but I was perfectly willing to pay what I owed the health club. Never heard back.

    What do I do? Yes, it’s on my credit report.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Deidre – If it were me, I’d complain to everyone I could: I’d file a complaint about the health club and the collection agency with the BBB, my state attorney general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and copy the health club and the collector. I’d also talk with a consumer law attorney to see if I had a case for credit damage. Sounds ridiculous to me as it does to you.

  • http://credit.comnewsandadvice Roger Ross

    My daughter lived in an appartment, had a $1,000. deposit. The unit flooded with sewer water several time ruining the capet. She also had a dog in the unit which did do some damage to the unit. When she bought a house and moved out the landlord told her she owed $3,000. for damage. She disputed the bill knowing she would loss her deposit. They wanted her to pay for new carpete that was from water damage, a new vanity in the bath room which was her fault. several other items. They turned her over to a collection agency with out going to court. Can they do this legally and what should she do. This is on her credit report which she had a very high score and proud of and would like to keep. What to do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I don’t have a simple answer for your daughter. A landlord doesn’t have to take you to court before turning an account over to collections. And it’s very hard to undo these accounts once they have been turned over to collections. What she legally was responsible for likely depends on the contract and landlord tenant laws in her state, but the fact that she disputed the entire bill and didn’t pay the portion that she definitely was responsible for didn’t help here.

      The only thing I can suggest is that she try to get the landlord to pull it back from collections if she is willing to pay it. She may have to pay the entire balance though if she can get the landlord to agree to this. I wrote about that approach in this article: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit The same principal applies here.

  • Kassi

    I have received phone calls from one number three sometimes four tines a day every day for the last few weeks. I have told them before that I don’t have money to send to them because the things my kids need and the other important bills I have to pay are more important that what I owe for something else. I have to hang on to every penny I earn just to get by. I’ve told them several times that soonercare has been giving me the run around as to why they wouldn’t back date for the medical bills that this number keeps calling me about. I’m also received letters form them saying what I owe but its never said to who I owed it too. I’ve been scammed by a so called collection agency in regards to an account that I paid on twice! Then I had someone else call me in regards to that account and they started asking me if my family could loan me the money to pay it. I’m tired.of sounding like a broken record. I can’t afford to pay my debts and have no idea how to go about getting it through their heads. We are an economical bind and all they care about is taking money from those who don’t have it. The people who can’t afford their debt suffer the most and its not fair. I’m tired of the phone calls that constantly call my phone. I’ve had my number changed twice and they still some how get my new number.

  • Shar

    How long does an apartment complex have to report you to credit bureaus after you have moved out? Can they wait a whole year until they report you? and based on the amount whats the lowest the collectors will normally go on a percentage range?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Shar – I assume that what happened is they turned over an outstanding debt to collections a year after you moved out. It’s not usually illegal for a debt to go to collections after a year, though I don’t know if landlord-tenant law in your state would require they notify you sooner.

      As far as how low they will go, that depends on so many different factors, including whether they bought the debt or if they are just collecting on assignment (which means they usually must collect more.)

  • Penelope Owens

    hello my name is penelope and I keep receiving threatening calls from this payday loan over 7 years ago and am being told that they have a warrant for my arrest on a loan originally 200 dollars and a couple of months ago it was 1645 dollars and now am being told to pay 645 and the harrassment continues daily and they have even asked my 73 year old father to pay it…. what to do because the harrassment never stops..

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Penelope – I don’t know what state you live in, but the statute of limitations have likely expired on this debt. That may not matter to these guys anyway though because the fact that they say the have a warrant for your arrest makes me believe you are dealing with scammers. I’d suggest reading this article: How to Beat Debt Collection Scammers at Their Game. You may want to also get a free Google Voice number and start using that. It makes it easy to screen calls and block numbers.

  • Brian Gagne

    My 15 yr old daughter received a call from Merchant Collections today. They are trying to collect a 3 yr old bill that we actually already paid. What really upsets me, though, is that they somehow got my daughter’s phone number. Are there any laws that specifically relates to calling minor family members? By the way, the bill had nothing to do with her – it was for my wife’s breast cancer treatment.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Brian – Not specifically that I know of. These collectors use databases to gather whatever information they can use to contact debtors and that sometimes means they call neighbors, relative etc. They aren’t allowed to disclose or discuss the debt with a third party, however, and I assume your minor daughter would fall into that category. So you certainly can ask a consumer law attorney for an opinion on this.

      At a minimum, though, I would encourage you to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and your state attorney general. I tend to agree with you – not good practice.

  • Michael chapman

    Went to the bank to get my first loan for a house
    Only to find that my wife who still uses her maiden name.( don’t know if that will help)
    Has forgot to pay some bills that showed up on my credit report
    So I call and they linked me to her bad credit that I didn’t know wasn’t paid
    From having a child yes with me ! One child before we were married and one after
    But can they just throw that stuff in my credit report ! One collector has me listed
    By my middle name not my legal first name maybe I can use that ? To say they never gave me notice there for no chance to pay ! I work in Alaska where I am a resident my mailing address
    Is in Montana so I am not home when the kids see the dr . One more question if she takes the kids to the dr. Isn’t that bill hers or does it automatically be put under the insurance providers name ?


      Michael – if you were on the accounts as a co-signer or joint account holder, then the accounts will be reported in both of your credit reports. If you’re not, and the accounts don’t belong to you, you’ll need to file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to have them removed. Here are two resources that will explain this in more detail:

      Regarding the doctor visits, it would depend on the individual doctor’s office but typically, the medical provider will file claims directly with the insurance provider (if insurance information is provided by your wife). If the claims aren’t paid or the doctor doesn’t have the appropriate insurance information to file the claim, it will fall to the parent(s) of the child if the child is under 18 years of age.

      • Char

        Can a collector legally say “why do you need disability and you’re only 29″

  • Nicole

    I just recently received a notice of garnishment of my wages. Last week without knowing until I was paid the garnishment started. I replied for a hearing request and the debt collection agencies attorney called me right away. They are wanting a copy of my 1040 and the last 6 pay stubs to see if they will work out a payment agreement with me. The balance they are saying I owe is $10,900; however, my original agreement was for $10,500 and I have proof I have paid $8,000 of the balance at least. I am awaiting for the 10 day rights the attorney has to reply. I have requested a statement showing my payments and how the amount now owed is more than originally agreed and the attorney said he can not give me that information. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do in this case?


      Nicole – this can get complicated so it’s important that you understand your rights and your options. A good resource to review (and that will explain your options in greater detail): Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit –

      This guide will explain exactly what a collector is required to furnish as proof of what you owe, etc. It also gives excellent advice on deciding when it’s time to hire an attorney and fight back. Def. worth the time to read.

    • Denise

      Legally the attorney has to provide all statement of facts with regards to the debt. It’s my understanding that all states and federal laws make that a requirement. It’s like going to court for criminal charges and not knowing what all the charges are!

  • Rochelle

    I have an account in collections from a sprint phone account I made for my sister and she didn’t pay. It has been in collections for a few years now. I tried to (pay to delete) but they said no. A few months ago after their threats didn’t work, the collection agency took my account out of collections for 10 days and then put it back in. (I have been watching my credit report very closely) This caused it to look like a new account just went into collections. I applied for and received a new credit card but at 14.65 apr instead 11.25 apr.,stating that I had an recent account go into collections. Is it legal for collection agencies to do this. I noticed that after they did this, they stop calling but still own the account.


      Rochelle – the date that’s important is the date the account initially went to collections. If the collector changed that date and reported it to show that the collection just occurred, this is illegal. It’s called re-aging and creditors are not allowed to do this. You can file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to correct the reporting error.

      If you can afford to pay the debt (or negotiate a settlement and pay it for less), it would be a good move to make. Otherwise, if the collector decides to sue in an attempt to collect the debt, it may lead to more headaches. If the collector sues you and the judge awards payment in their favor, you’ll end up with a judgment in your credit reports that will hurt your credit for another seven years. Here area few resources that explain everything in more detail, definitely worth reading if you’re dealing with a collection:

      To Pay or Not to Pay? The Question of Old Debts –
      Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage –
      Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit —

  • Amber

    I have a question. My husband had a collection agency contact him about a Walmart credit card from 7 years ago. His ex girlfriend opened the card in his name without his knowledge and now they are coming after him. He has told them over and over again that it wasn’t him that opened the card and they said that it doesn’t matter and that he has to pay it. What is the SOL in Florida. That’s where we live. Thanks


      Amber – this sounds like a bad case of fraud (and identity theft). If your husband truly had nothing to do with this account and this woman opened it without his permission or his knowledge, it’s illegal and prosecutable by law. If he doesn’t take the proper steps, the collectors will continue to come after him for the account and he may even be sued at some point. If he decides that he wants to fight the account and file charges, here’s a great resource on steps to take if you’ve been a victim of identity theft:
      Identity Theft Emergency: 5 Crucial Steps for Victims

      The statute of limitations in the state of Florida is 5 years for open accounts and 4 years for written contracts. Credit card accounts are generally considered open accounts while installment accounts – like an auto loan – would be considered a written contract.

      The full statute for the state of Florida can be found here:

      The statutes are listed under 95.11(2)(a) and 95.11(3)(k), respectively.

  • Patricia Clark

    Help! I am in a dispute with a collection agency that put another individual’s debt on my credit report. I have a letter from the agency stating the debt would be removed, yet 6 months later, it’s still there. I am unable to get student loans for my daughter, it affects my homeowners insurance, and my own ability to get a loan. I keep trying to contact the compliance officer who sent me the letter stating the debt is not mine, but am not able to reach her because I’m being told the only way I can talk to her is through email. What can I do???

  • Michelle

    So a couple weeks ago Calif. Business Bureau contacted me about an old Judgement ( By default) from 2005. It was originally 4868.25. At one point or time ( over 5 years ago ) they had froze my account and I was being garnished for the debt. They have not collected from me in over 5 years, lost job, got new job, then lost that job….( I have no idea how much I paid already) They now say I owe them 7500.00 dollars. This is no longer on my credit report. I looked up the case online and it said – 08/18/2006: Writ of EXECUTION (EXPIRED) from Ventura County returned PARTIALLY satisfied. What does that mean and can they still try to garnish or freeze my bank account?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Michelle –

      Please see a bankruptcy attorney right away. You should be able to get a free of low-cost consultation. They attorney should be able to explain your rights here and help you figure out what you can do about this judgment.

  • Beth

    I apparently have a store credit card that I was not paying on. It went to collections, and now they have called me and asked if I had a lawyer. I agreed to make payments out of my checking account. After reading all the horror stories, I am now scared to death! I just set the payments up tonight. Should I call my bank and close the account and then contact the company?? I feel very foolish, I am usually a little more savvy than this. I think the threat of needing a lawyer freaked me out, which is ( I am sure) what they wanted. What should I do?!?

    • Jennica

      Beth, they did that to me…but once they faxed me the paperwork and I saw the address of the people collecting was different than the internet was, I googled it. It’s a UPS STORE! The phone number listed on the fax has dozens of complaints online of scams. I had to cancel my debit card and inform my bank. I also filed a complaint with the state’s attorney and also have a lawyer in case they somehow manage to be legit and do serve me with papers. The man on the phone(the lawyer) told me first that by agreeing to the payment arrangement that the process server would be called back; then after they had my info, he claimed that the process server couldn’t be called back… the girl who was “processing” my payment kept putting me on hold to run to the fax machine- there was a lot of background noise- as if she’s working at said store! I asked for an address and why I couldn’t send money orders…never got answers to either. Also asked why a reputable firm doing debt collections would have to fax things from a UPS store. I was put on hold. I hung up. They left onemore message telling me it was imperative to contact them by the end of day or I would be served. That was Tues. It’s Sat. not only have the calls stopped, but nothing yet. I will keep you updated. I would contest the charges with your bank and have a lawyer on hand just in case. Did they serve you with papers? My lawyer also said these sort of things always peak around income tax time, FYI.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Collectors usually do try to get debtors to agree to have their payments taken out of their checking account, and as you may know from reading our stories, we don’t think this is a good idea. (The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector). But that doesn’t mean you have to panic. You may want to consider just keeping enough money in that account to pay the collector and opening a new account for your other financial transactions.

      Also, you don’t mention how much you owe, how much you are paying, whether you can afford those payments etc. Do you have other debts you can’t pay? If so, your best bet may be to contact a consumer bankruptcy attorney. They can advise you of your rights here and help you figure out a game plan for dealing with these debts.

  • Mimi smith

    My fiancé has children with his ex wife. She will bring the children to the doctor or Hospitol and list him as being responsible as she still has his info with her Address. Needless to say there Re several accounts listed with the credit agencies. He pays for their individual medical plans and child support. Since he did not sign the Hospitol forms what do we do. We have called the Hospitol to request the forms proving he did not sign them and they refer us to call the collection company we ask them for the forms and are told call the Hospitol. We have written letters to both asking them to be removed from his credit to no avail, what do you suggest we do now?

    • Lindsey

      Same thing happen to me. I want to know the answer to this.

  • Mandy H

    Is there in anything in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which would prevent a collection agency from continuing collection activity against me after an account has been paid off? I had a collection agency collecting several small balances from a hospital my husband had surgery at. I paid them all off in full in October 2012, in November 2012 the agency reported the items to Equifax all as zero balance items. I disputed the items with Equifax but they responded saying the items were verified as belonging to me.


      Mandy – Can you clarify what you mean by “continuing collection activity”? Are they still calling or contacting you for more money? If they are, and the debts are clearly being reported as paid (and you have proof that you paid them), we’d suggest contacting a consumer law attorney, preferably one familiar with FDCPA cases –you’d likely have a pretty strong case.

      On the other hand, if by “continuing collection activity” you mean that they are continuing to report the information in your credit report, that’s completely legal. When you pay a collection, the collection isn’t removed from your credit report. Instead, it’s updated to reflect that the account was paid (and would reflect a zero balance) and the account would remain until it expired. For collection accounts, this is usually 7 years from the date the account first went into serious delinquency status (typically at the 180 day late mark.) For a more in-depth explanation, here are two resources that will help:

      Will Paying a Collection Account Remove it From My Credit Report?
      How Long Does Negative Info Stay on My Credit Report?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This makes no sense to me. Why would they report after the fact? Did you pay them before they went to collections or after?

  • Eric

    Quick question, I have a debt with Capital One (15K) it is in the name of a small business that I owned. Business went belly up, lost my job etc…I have tried working with Capital One to pay off my debt, offered a lump sum settlement of 80% which was rejected. I had to cash in an annuity to get this kind of cash but I was trying to avoid bankruptcy. My account was 3 months delinquent and in good faith I brought it up to date. They would not work with me on reducing my interest until I was up to date, well now that Im up to date and have been so for the past 6 months they still will not reduce my interest (18%) Im fed up with them and can no longer afford paying 260/mo in interest. Since that time I have paid double the minimum due and have talked with countless managers/departments at Capitol One, still no one will work with me. I was able to negotiate a lump sum payment with other creditors and no longer have any money left from the annuity that I cashed in. What are my options? Should I let it go to collection? Should I file bankruptcy? Im lost….any insight would be greatly appreciated!

    • Michael Bovee

      Eric – After getting through your other debts it would be a shame to bite the bullet and file for bankruptcy now. You said the 18% interest is unaffordable, but can you afford 300 a month as a flat payment (this would include the interest)?

      Settling with Capital One right before they charge off the account (between 150 to 180 days late), is an option. You would need to be prepared with anywhere from 40 to 60% of the balance.

      Letting the account get referred to outside collections means running the risk of the account being placed with an attorney collector. If that can be avoided, you should try. That said, you can only do what you can do. Settlements on Capital One accounts can be achieved with third party collection agencies and even collection attorneys.

      So, how about that lower monthly payment estimate of 300 a month? Is that out of reach?

  • Mary

    I live in Pennsylvania. Today I received a notice from a debt collector for over $9,000 from 2000 when my son was born. I am more than freaking out. I recently separated from my husband and am supporting two kids with barely any child support. I can’t even afford to get us our own place and we live with my parents. My position got eliminated at work and I took a very large pay cut. Meanwhile half my pay goes to the insurance payment every payday. That’s important because the name of the creditors listed changed as of 1/28/13 to the name of the medical group that treats my autistic son and I’m afraid they won’t see him till this is paid. also there is no actual due date on the statement, just the normal 30 days to respond stuff. I’ve been trying to fix my credit. it’s gone up 100 points in six months just because I’ve been so careful. now I just don’t know what to do.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Mary – According to my sources, this debt is likely outside the statute of limitations, which means that if they tried to sue you to collect you could raise the statute of limitations as a defense against the debt.

      You may want to confirm the statute of limitations for your state, and if you discover the debt is too old, you can send the collection agency a certified letter stating that you know the debt is too old and asking them not to contact you again.

      Please keep in mind, however, that I am not an attorney and can’t provide legal advice.

      (As far as further treatment of your son, however, I don’t know how that will be handled.)

  • Xiomara

    Another question: In college as most students do, I signed a year long lease with an apartment complex. In May I went through all of the trouble to find a renter, move my things out and hand in my keys to the apartment. The problem is I didn’t get anything in writing and my pm said I had to wait for move-in day to get this lease signing resolved–mainly because I kept checking day after day and she hadn’t even run the application!
    So, I already had a new place moved my stuff and everything. My renter also found another place and since I had nothing in writing, I am responsible. Understood.

    I did clean and turn in my keys. Asked if there was anything else I needed to do, they said no. Yes my records are vague and so are theirs. Sometime later I get a $2500 bill for two month’s of rent, break lease fee, etc. I did not contest this because at the time I had no job and was a full-time student but did not know my rights and laws as a tenant. Now almost 7 years later while checking my credit, I also see a judgement on only one bureau! This lady had taken an empty apartment to court stating that I left my patio furniture there when she went to do the walkthrough and since my lease had never been taken over she had to go through court to take possession!

    I called down to the clerk’s office and the original judgement is for $776. The interest has made this amount almost double. There are also two active collections accounts on my credit report plus the judgement for the same amount. When I called the complex it had been sold a few years ago and our files are not kept in that office so I could get no info. Here’s the question: Do I pay the clerk since I know this amount to be true and legal then ask the collector(s) to stop reporting? I do not want to pay these collectors until it falls off my credit since it’s so close. I don’t want my score to drop for trying to do something good! Is it legal to have two open collectors reporting and can I rely on them to enter a satisfaction of judgement once I get this paid or would paying the clerk the jgmt plus interest cover the amount of collections? How would I take care of this without nagatively impacting my report/score?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Xiomara –

      With regard to the judgment, they can often be renewed indefinitely. So it probably makes sense to pay it so the balance doesn’t continue to increase and you find yourself owing even more. (Judgments can often be settled for less than the full amount if you are able to find out who owns the debt so you can negotiate with them.) Paying the judgment should not extend the time period it is reported as paid judgments may be reported for 7 years from the date they were entered by the court. (Unpaid judgments can remain longer than 7 years.)

      As for the other two collection accounts, it sounds like those may be duplicates. If that is the case, then I suggest you dispute them. You’ll learn more about how to do that in this article: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If you pay the judgement, the status should be updated to Paid. A paid judgment can be reported for seven years from the original date of entry by the court. At that point, it may no longer be reported. An unpaid judgment, however, can be reported longer than 7 years if there is a longer statute of limitations. (In many states, the statute of limitations for reporting judgments is much longer, and they can be renewed.) So it may make sense to resolve it. However, make sure you get a satisfaction of judgment or whatever legal document is required to prove it’s paid, and hold on to that in case you run into any problems in the future. Also with that. you should have the proof you need to dispute the collection account that appear to be duplicates.

      (This is not legal advice. Also, I think I understand the situation, but not entirely sure. So you may want to consult a consumer law attorney for legal advice)

  • Melanie Resso

    I have a few questions regarding suing a credit bureau.

    My husband’s career in the military was ruined when he and his brother were lumped together by the 3 big ones. His brother had horrible outstanding debts. Husband didn’t. Somehow they were lumped together for YEARS. Even before my husband was 18, legal age for most of the debts.

    he lost his secret clearance, wasn’t able to rank up, etc. and lost his job due to this. he wrote letters and called the bureaus disputing his brothers debts on his file. He even ordered a credit check that when it arrived showed two different soc. #’s (1 his 1 his brothers) and different addresses.

    Here’s the kicker. On top of all this. Since they lumped them together. The police showed up in VIRGINIA looking for his brother at our address thinking he was his brother. We were stationed in VA, meanwhile all our family (brother included) was in California.

    Can you help or have any information?

  • http://fdcpa Diane Gray

    My husband and I purchases furniture from this furniture store in 1986, the store went out of business. Since then my husband passed, now the store has reopen 27 years later they have filed a claim against me to collect. What can I do to stop these actions.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Diane – That’s nuts! What do you mean they “file a claim against” you? Did they sue? Send a collection notice? If there hasn’t been any legal action, then I’d recommend you send them a certified letter stating that you know this debt is too old and asking them not to contact you again. If they have taken legal action against you, contact a consumer law attorney immediately.

  • Michael Bovee

    Pam – Yes, there is an applicable SOL (statute of limitations), for this scenario, and the debt is likely well beyond that. That SOL is for how long you can be legitimately sued to collect. The SOL does not make the debt disappear. It can still be collected on. Collection attempts will be limited to phone calls and mailed letters.

    If it were me in your shoes, I would send a cease communication letter to the debt collector certified mail return receipt requested. I would keep a copy of the letter and the return receipt green card in a safe place. If this same debt collector were to attempt any form of collection after that (calls to work and home), I would connect with an experienced fair debt lawyer (most take collection violation cases on contingency), and take this to the next level.

  • Credit Experts

    KDG – Everything you need know is explained in this article: Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

    As far as there being a cap on the amount the collector can charge, collectors are often able to charge interest and other fees but there are limits. Exactly how much a debt collector can charge would be governed by your individual state laws and the contract with the creditor.

  • Credit Experts

    Tom – if they’ve served you, and have sued you (and been awarded a judgment against you), they may very well be able to seize your bank accounts —regardless of whether you acknowledge them or not. This is why we never advise ignoring collection attempts.

    To make sure you’re aware of your rights and fully understand the collection process, your options — and what happens when a collector sues you for a debt — the following resources will tell you everything you need to know:

    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
    Help! I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report
    Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You —Now What?

  • Credit Experts

    Erin — From the sounds of it you’re dealing with a collection scam. has covered this topic extensively and would encourage you to read through the following resources to avoid becoming a victim:

    Beware of Fake Payday Loan Debt Collection Scam
    7 Ways to Stop Overseas Debt Collection Scam Calls
    Fake Payday Loan Collector Scam Continues
    Despite Attention, Payday Scammers Keep Calling

    Collectors are legally bound by the laws outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and cannot threaten to show up at your home and take you to jail. They also have to tell you the who they are, their company name and address, etc. We encourage you to read through the resources provided above so that you know your rights and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

  • mwb

    my daughter has a collection agency after her for a hospital bill ,she never recieved any bill from the hospital or calls reguarding the bill

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This is so common, unfortunately. She should ask the collection agency to agree in writing not to report to the credit bureaus if she pays it immediately (hopefully she can!). She should make sure she has something to that effect in writing. If they won’t agree, I would suggest your daughter contact the hospital and insist they pull the bill back from collections so she can pay them directly.

  • Credit Experts has covered this topic extensively and offers several resources that should help:

    Beware of Fake Payday Loan Debt Collection Scam
    7 Ways to Stop Overseas Debt Collection Scam Calls
    Fake Payday Loan Collector Scam Continues
    Despite Attention, Payday Scammers Keep Calling

    We encourage you to read through the resources provided above so that you know your rights and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

  • Cocobrown

    Can a lawyers office act as a debt collector for past due HOA fees and charge $750 as their fee on top of the $250 you owe?

    • Michael Bovee

      It is fairly common for HOA dues to be placed with an attorney for collection. If all the attorney does is write a collection letter, the 750 is a bit high, and could be negotiated lower. If the attorney files suit to collect through the court that 750 may not be considered exorbitant. Even at the court collection stage you can often negotiate a lower payoff.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Typically, yes, attorneys do help HOAs collect delinquent dues and they charge the homeowner for those services. Since many of these attorneys bill anywhere from $200 – $400, it’s easy for a fee to reach $750 quite quickly. You can check with your state attorney general’s office or a local consumer law attorney to find out what your options may be if you think the fee is excessive.

  • annla

    About 10 years ago I had canceled a gym membership and it looks like abouy in 2008 the darn thing some how came to hunt.. me I disputed the item and was informed by a member of experian that if I had not received a email stating that it was removed than I would have to call the collection agency .. I thought that it was no hope so I contacted the collectin agegency and setup payment arrangements.. Even though this is not my debt.. I really needed this to be off my report.. Then i look to see that the item that I disputed had been removed.. My question is am I still obligated to pay that collection agency.. a debt that I should not be paying.. A little extra information.. This Gym membership was cancled almost 12 years ago how this thing ended up on my credit report I don’t know what

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Annla – It sounds like you are dealing with a debt buyer who purchased a very old debt. If it was 10 years old in 2008 then there’s no reason it should be on your credit reports at this time (unless they got a court judgment against you and the judgment is on your credit reports.) You have two options. One is to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state attorney general to see whether they can help. The other is to talk with a consumer law attorney who regularly helps consumers in debt collection cases. They may be willing to help you without charging you upfront if they think you have a good case. That’s because the collection agency would have to pay their fees if they are breaking the law.

  • Nicola Ninotti

    I owe $1200 to a university for a dropped class. Only went to the class three times, but I get it. The debt collector, who is very rude/abusive, is trying to collect $1700. He says I owe $500 in collection fees. Is this allowed? I live in Michigan. Is there anything I can do to get rid of the fee?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Since you say the debt collector is being abusive, I would recommend you talk with a consumer law attorney with experience representing consumers in these kinds of situations. You should be able to locate one in your area using the attorney locator tool at The attorney should also be able to tell you whether the additional costs the collector is charging are legal. If you can’t get an answer from an attorney, it would be a good idea to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Brenda

    A debt collector has send me a letter saying that if I do not respond with in 20days I will be served with a judgment. I want to pay before this get any further . Problem is I don’t have that collectors info. IS there a web site where I can look for this info? Please help!!

    • Credit Experts

      Brenda – Typically collectors report collections in your credit report. Have you ordered copies of your credit report to see if this debt is showing up? If they’ve reported it in your credit reports (which is likely the case), their contact information will be included in the report. That’s your best bet in finding the contact information on the collection. Another good resource, this article covers this very same subject: Help! I Lost My Debt Collection Notice!

  • Shanabe

    Called this morning to get their company name. Three phone calls, Three hang ups without being given the information. Was told to not call them back.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      And they think you are supposed to send money to a debt collector that won’t even identify itself? Seriously?!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Time to start blocking the calls if you can…

  • Credit Experts

    Depending on the state you and your husband resided in, spouses may be liable for the others debt if the debt was incurred during the marriage. Much depends on whether or not you both lived in a community property state. If neither of you lived in a community property state, and you were NOT a co-signer on the loan, the lender cannot hold you liable for the debt. To explain…

    If you lived in a community property state and your spouse defaults on a debt, you’re typically liable for your spouse’s debt, regardless of whether your name was on the original loan or not. Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska has an optional community property provision for couples who choose to opt into a community property agreement. You can read more about spousal liability on student loan debt in this article

    In your case, even though you are out of the country, we’d encourage you to contact the lender for more details — it may be that they have no legal right to collect from you. In which case, you can dispute the debt and have it removed from your credit reports (even if you’re out of the country). We’d also encourage you to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in conjunction with your dispute with the collector at this website:

    If it ends up that you are liable for the debt, the following resource can help when dealing with student loan collection companies:

    4 Ways to Deal with Student Loan Collection Companies

    And finally, for more information on dealing with collectors, your rights, and steps to take to dispute the debt, the following resources will explain everything you need to know:

    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes
    8 Rules of an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

  • Credit Experts

    Hi Wes — Gerri has written about this issue and answers your question in this article: Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage

  • Credit Experts

    JC – If the collector is coming to your house repeatedly, after you’ve asked him not to (and your gf doesn’t reside there), this could be considered harassment under the FCRA. In which case, you may wish to contact a consumer law attorney to see if you might have a case against them. To find a consumer law attorney in your area, is a good place to start.

    In the end, if your girlfriend is filing for bankruptcy, she should contact her attorney about the debt. If she’s filing or has filed, the debt should be included and her bankruptcy attorney would handle the collector from here.

  • Credit Experts

    Gerri recently wrote about this exact topic. For more information about medical bills incurred as a minor, the following may help: Medical Bills and Minors – What You Need to Know

  • Credit Experts

    Mitchell — Unfortunately, this is quite common with hospital collections. We’ve covered this topic extensively on the blog and there are a few resources that can explain what’s happening and how to deal with lawsuit:

    Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly
    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

    To help consumers struggling with overwhelming medical debt and medical collections, Gerri has also covered this issue extensively here at The following resources may give you a few other options on how to deal with medical bills:

    The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems
    How to Fix Your Medical Bill Problems
    How to Negotiate Your Medical Bills
    Is it Ever Too Late to Negotiate a Medical Bill?

  • Credit Experts

    Normally we’d advise trying to reverse or vacate the judgment but this isn’t something that’s easy to do without the help of a lawyer. On top of that, since the judgment has already been paid, it’s probably going to be even more challenging. In which case, we’d urge you to seek the advice of an attorney. To find a consumer law attorney in your area, is a good place to start.

  • Credit Experts

    The statute of limitations (SOLs) on judgments are much different than SOLs on judgments. Depending on your individual state laws, the SOL on a judgment can often span 10 to 20 years, and they can be renewed. You can read more about this (and what you can do to address the judgment) in the following articles:

    Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You — Now What?
    Help! I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report

  • Credit Experts

    If the statute of limitations has passed, you’ll want to respond to the collection notice — DO NOT ignore it. As Gerri has pointed out in previous resources on this topic:

    “In most states, creditors have a maximum of four to six years to sue to collect a debt. After that, the statute of limitations expires. That doesn’t always stop collectors from suing, however, because they are counting on borrowers failing to show up in court. If the statute of limitations has expired, and the borrower raises that as a defense, the collector will lose. Making a payment on an old debt may start the clock ticking all over again, though, so a debtor should get legal advice before making a payment on a very old debt.”

    To make sure you handle the collection and avoid being sued, we’d encourage you to read through and follow the advice in the following resource to be safe:
    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    Legally, they can’t arbitrarily change the date that the debt was originally charged off. Keep in mind, however, that if you made an agreement to work something out and made any sort of payment (and then re-defaulted on that payment agreement), this will update that date.

    If you haven’t made arrangements to pay the debt and haven’t made any payments since the debt was initially written off, they can’t update the date. If they did, you should dispute the reporting error with both the collector and the credit reporting agencies. These resources can help:

    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Errors
    8 Rules of an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

  • JJ

    I was served a garnishment notice yesterday on a 4 year old judgement that I went to court on and the plaintiff, Frederick J Hannah did not show up. I immediately went to court house to look up the old case and the judge ruled in favor of the no show plaintiff a few months AFTER court date. I was never served, mailed or given a Notice of Entry of Judgment. What can I do? Can I appeal? This is GA court system.

    • Michael Bovee

      It sure seems like some wires got crossed in the handling of your case. I can only guess at a couple of ways this would have occurred. But that is not productive at this point. A couple of suggestions:

      Go to and click on find an attorney. Select your state to the left, and in the center menu choose debt collection, then further narrow your search by checking the collection lawsuit defense box. Look over the results of attorneys nearest you with debt defense experience and call one for a consultation. Very few attorneys specialize in debt defense. If there is something that can be done to undo what happened in your case 4 years ago, this type of attorney can best advise you.

      You may have gotten a notice of how to request a hearing to contest the garnishment. If not, you can call the court and ask for information about how to do that. You may be fully or partially exempt from garnishment, and the hearing you request is how you would establish that. You can do this while you are pursuing any other options to resolve the judgment.

  • Credit Experts

    Kristina — Was the hospital paid by the charity? If they wrote off the debt, it leads me to believe they sold (or consigned) the debt to the collection agency. Do you have any documentation showing the charity paid the debt? If you do, we’d encourage you to dispute the collection with that documentation. If not, you may need reach out to the hospital directly to see if they can confirm that the debt was paid through the charity.

    If it was, you’ll want to dispute the debt with the collection agency and with the credit reporting agencies. The following resources will walk you through that process:

    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Errors
    8 Rules for an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It sounds like that is the case. You may need to talk with a consumer law attorney to confirm that.

  • Richard

    I have three collection accounts on my credit report. They are bad checks that my wife wrote before we moved to another state. I was never aware of the bad checks and now they are on my credit report. This took place in Florida. Is this correct? Even though I didn’t write the check on know about the debt, it can be put on my credit report?

    • Credit Experts

      Richard — if your name was on the account at the bank (a joint checking account), then yes. If your name wasn’t on the account, or in any way associated with the checking account, then the answer would be no — unless you live in a community property state. In community property states, collectors can come after the spouse for payment if the debt was incurred during the marriage, regardless of whether or not your name was on the account.

      Florida is NOT a community property state, but Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin are. Alaska has an optional community property provision for couples who choose to opt into a community property agreement.

  • Credit Experts

    Gwen — When you say “forgave” do you mean charged it off, or wrote it off? If so, they can still sell the debt for collection and you’d still owe it to the collector. (If the collector purchased a debt that was written off by the original creditor, the third party collector would legally able to attempt to collect the debt from you and you’d still owe it.)
    With that said, there are other options to file a complaint against a third party collector. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers an online complaint system and they’ll investigate the complaint and contact the collector in question. You can file a complaint directly through the CFPB’s website here:

  • Credit Experts

    In most states, the answer is yes, they are allowed to charge interest. You can find more on judgments and what they do here:
    Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You — Now What?

  • JBQL

    HI Gerri, I have a collection agency that is trying to collect money on a debt that was reported to them by the SBA. Preamble: Several years ago, i closed up my business and signed a forebearance agreement with the bank that lent me the money (the loan was guaranteed by the SBA). I paid the bank pursuant to the forebearance agreement and paid it off. This was two years ago. Earlier this year, I was notified by the Financial Mgmt dept of the Treasury that I owed $15k to the SBA and, of course, they confiscated my tax return. I began disputing this in Jan 2013. I received from the bank a signed/attested schedule showing all of my payments. I sent this to the Treasury dept and they sent the case to a collection agency. I am now disputing this with the collection agency. Meanwhile, i never received any notices from the SBA stating that i owe any money. I’ve lived in the same address for 12 years and never received any notices. If they sent anything to the business address, it would have been forwarded (for up to a year). One part of my dispute is that I’ve never received any notice from the SBA regarding this and have no way to know whether they actually sent any notice. The collection agent told me that even if they sent it to an old address, and it wasn’t forwarded or received, they still have provided notice. Is this true?? Also, the collection agency refuses to give me any contact information for the SBA dept that is filing the complaint. I have no way of getting in touch with someone there. The agent told me that the SBA is claiming that when i fell behind/defaulted on the loan several years ago, the SBA would have paid the bank the balance due. However, I continued paying the bank based on the forebearance agreement. So it appears that the bank has double-dipped since they were supposed to have paid over all of my payments to the SBA. They didn’t do this. The agent is telling me that I have to pay the SBA and pursue the bank legally. My attorney said that unless we can get the documents that were filed for collection to prove that this is true, we don’t know who to file a complaint against.

    can you add any insight into this? Apologies for such a long blog.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It sounds like you have hired an attorney which is what I would do in this situation. Are they helping you get the documentation you need? Typically what happens when you can’t pay an SBA loan is they will try to collect from the borrower after they have paid the guaranty – it’s not considered double dipping because eventually the money makes its way back to whomever was out on the loan (lender or federal government that guarantees it). I am not certain that’s what is happening here, but it sounds like that is a possibility.

      I wouldn’t rely on the collection agent to be sure about what’s going on. It’s a well-documented problem that collectors aren’t always given full information on files.

      Have you tried reaching out to the SBA’s ombudsman’s office?

      Also – your attorney should be able to tell you what suffices as proper service in your state.

      And finally, the attorney should be able to advise whether this collector is breaking the law with regard to collection practices.

      Sorry I am not more specific but it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening here.

  • Karey

    I moved out of an apartment last year and they billed me for a replacement rug and spraying the concrete due to pet damages that I believe already existed under the carpet. I did not have a pet that lived with me in the apartment. They have a collections company after me now and I explained that I will not pay for something that wasn’t possibly my fault. The apartment mgr sent me pictures of the underside of the rug that does have pet stains, but they could only have been from the previous tenant. How can I fight back? The collections company said they have filed the charge on my credit. I know an attorney is going to cost more than the $550 charges, but I will not be bullied into a charge that I could not possibly be responsible for. Is there anything you can suggest?

    • Michael Bovee

      Have you looked up any “renters rights” or “tenant rights” organizations in your state or city? They may have a good amount of experience in assisting people deal with this sort of thing.

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  • Credit Experts

    It depends. What sort of debt are you referring to? Collection accounts? And what kind of debt — credit cards or student loans for example?

    In the meantime, perhaps this post, What to Do When Debt Collectors Break the Rules, will be useful to you.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It sounds like perhaps they are contacting the wrong person. Do you have a common name? You have the right to dispute the debt. I’d suggest you send them a letter letting them know you know nothing about this debt and asking them to verify it. Then contact the court where the judgement was supposedly filed and see if you can order a copy of the records. Finally, check your free annual credit reports reports to see if a judgment is listed.

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  • Credit Experts

    Alex —
    At 17, you should have been considered too young to enter into a legal agreement. Here’s more on the subject, as well as advice on how to deal with your credit report:
    Medical Bills and Minors — What You Need to Know and
    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Name

    if a patient is called about a delinquent at 10 p.m what federal law has being violated

    • Credit Experts

      The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not allow for calls after 9 p.m. unless you have authorized it. For more about your rights, see Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights,

  • Credit Experts

    Hi Pam —
    Your wages can be garnished to satisfy a debt if you live in a state that permits it. But that would happen only after filing a lawsuit and getting a judgment against you. This post about garnished wages may offer some insight: Can a Debt Collector Garnish Your Wages?

  • Credit Experts

    We are not legal experts, but you should be able to get your question answered by the attorney general’s office. Good luck.

  • Robin Kaimer

    I was charged with fines from Oklahoma when I was 19 that I was told I would never be charged for, I am now 26, and have just now received a letter from some debt collector that I have never gotten a letter from before stating that I never notified him of any disputes on the accounts, but I never received anything from him, Im assuming they have taken legal action that I was not aware of, what do I do it has been almost 8 years since these charges from when I was living in Oklahoma incident has happened, Feb 2014 will be 8 years, do I have to pay?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What kinds of fines are you talking about Robin? That affects my response. Also – have you checked your credit reports to see if there is a judgment listed. I would really encourage you to get your free annual credit reports. Whether or not there is a judgment would also affect my response.

  • confused&worried

    I recently received a letter in the mail from an attorney starting that judgement has been entered against me on behalf of their client (Nationwide General Ins Co) and my drivers license has been suspended.
    They included a financial statement for me to fill out and return, which in my opinion asks for entirely too much personal information. They also would like a copy of my last check stub.
    Along with the financial statement is a form of monthly expenses.

    I do have a claim number BUT I honestly have NO IDEA where this letter is coming from! I do not have any reason to be receiving this. I need some advice on what to do. Please and thank you in advance!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately, I don’t know either. Please talk with a consumer law attorney right away. It could be a mistake. Or if it’s not, it’s possible you were not properly served with notice of the lawsuit. You may have a limited time to try to dispute this so get advice. is a good website for finding a consumer law attorney.

  • Credit Experts

    Rick —
    Interest and late fees can continue even when you no longer have access to the credit card. (If you pay in full and on time, though, so-called penalty rates can drop back to the rate you were being charged before.) This resource may be useful to you: Help! My credit card APR went up!

  • Credit Experts

    Belle —
    We had a reader who had a similar family situation; her story might be useful to you. It is here:
    Can a Bad Debt Get You Deported?.

    It sounds as if you disputed the bill. Did you dispute it with the collection agency, or with the credit reporting agency?

    If it turns out that you need legal assistance, a local legal aid organization might be able to help.

    Good luck with both finding a job and with straightening out your medical bills.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Talk with a consumer law attorney who regularly handles FDCPA cases. They may be willing to help you for free if they think you have a good case, as the collector would have to pay their fees if it turns out they broke the law. Visit for a referral. (You could also try contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Agency for assistance.)

  • Credit Experts

    Belle —
    It sounds as if the hospital turned over the debt to the collection agency — and now the hospital is saying the bill never existed? Here’s a resource about medical bills being sold to collection agencies that might be useful to you:
    4 Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly

    But again, we cannot give legal advice. A legal aid agency may be able to help you there.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Belle – Ask the hospital if they can give you a letter stating that the bill was forgiven. You can then send that letter to the collection agency asking them to remove it from your credit reports. If they don’t, then I suggest you ask the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for help. But you need something in writing stating that there was no balance to be turned over to collections.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Seda – They probably can’t. In most states the statute of limitations would have expired some years ago. (In most states it ranges from 4 – 5 years for consumer debts.) In addition, it should be too old to appear on your credit reports since the limit for reporting collection accounts is 7.5 years from when you fell behind with the original company (in this case, Sprint).

    You can likely get a phone with another carrier without a problem as this is probably just Sprint’s internal records stopping you from getting a phone with them.

  • Tawanya Byrd

    I have a spa fitness membership that I haven’t utilized for months so I recently just stop paying for financial reasons. Yesterday they ran an old debit card that I once had on file for automatic payment (not the current card on file) and debited my card 4 times with various payment amounts. When I contacted ABC financial services, the company that handles the billing, I was told that it was done at the spa and not through the billing service company. Can they legally do this? The billing service company stated that they no longer had that information because it was changed to another debit card but the spa has all and any cards ever used for billing.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It’s a tough call, but the fact that you fell behind leads me to think they probably could try to obtain payment using your debit card. At any rate, trying to dispute a debit card purchase (especially for something like this where you provided your authorization at some point) is going to be tough. They have their money and you would be trying to get it back – and I can’t imagine the bank wanting to get in the middle of that.

      Can you close out the bank account associated with the debit card so no further charges go through? After you do that, you need to find a way to pay what you owe on this if you can. Otherwise it’s going to go to collections and they may be able to increase the amount you owe, depending on the terms of the contract.

    • Elizaeth Chambers

      I had this same issue with the same company!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    That’s helpful – thanks.

  • cgbmw1229

    I just viewed my credit report and there is a medical collection on it. My daughter is 25 years old and on my insurance, the collection is hers and the medical facility is saying I am responsible because I carry the insurance is this true?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I highly doubt that you are legally responsible for this debt just because your daughter is on your insurance. Unless the original bill dates back from when she was a minor, or you specifically signed something agreeing to take financial responsibility for her bill, then it’s probably more likely a billing issue. (They had your name on the account and it transferred over to collections.) If you tell us what state you live in, we will be happy to try to check with a consumer law attorney in your state if we have a contact.

      You could try just calling the collection agency, explaining their mistake and asking them to fix it. But if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to take some specific steps.

      Get your credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies – order them by mail not online so you don’t accidentally agree to arbitration – then dispute the item in writing with the credit reporting agencies stating this is your daughter’s bill not yours. If they don’t fix it, dispute it in writing with the collection agency. If they don’t fix it, get a consumer law attorney involved.

      We wrote more about disputing credit reports here: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

      I would also encourage you to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as they are interested in the problems consumers are experiencing with regard to their credit reports.

  • Michael Bovee

    Amy – Many states have what they call “alternative service” provisions. I have seen instances where service is legitimate using certified mail. But your friends case may not be one of them.

    Judgment debtors being threatened with a pending wage garnishment can typically contest the garnishment as creating an undo hardship. You do that by requesting a hearing with the court. Your friend may meet the income and expense requirements to be either partially or fully exempt from garnishment. If the garnishment notice she received did not outline her rights to request a hearing, she should contact the court clerks office the judgment is in to get the information she needs about contesting.

    As far as disputing the judgment on any legal grounds, look for an attorney with collection defense experience in your area. I would recommend looking for one at using the find an attorney tab. Most consumer law attorneys with the experience your friend needs offer a no cost initial consult.

  • Michael Bovee

    Leann – It sure sounds a bit deceptive to me. You should be connecting with an attorney regarding any legal questions. You should also look at your rights to dispute credit card charges with your bank. And of course, you may be able to resolve any disputes by speaking directly with the service provider.

  • Michael Bovee

    Elizabeth – Can you provide specifics?

    Who is refusing your payment?
    Are you trying to pay less than an agreed, or contractual amount?
    Are they refusing to accept the payment because they have the account placed with a collection agency, or have already sold the debt off?

    • Elizabeth Chambers

      I’m glad my post posted! I didn’t think it did. Alright, so, it is my school; I owe them $5xx something at one moment and the next, $6xx something. Now, we’re back to $5xx something. My financial advisor told me that the balance must be paid in full and if I wish to make payments, I could set that up when they send my account to a collection agency. The debt has not been sold off yet, that will happen in about 4 weeks.

      • Michael Bovee

        From what little I have to go on, yes, a lender/creditor will place an account with a debt collector, even when partial payments were being made, and not the required minimums.

        If I am now understanding your concern a little better – debt collectors do not typically turn away a file because your creditor may have refused to accept less than the agreed payment amount.

        What type of student debt or school loans do you have?

        What type of adviser are you working with?

        What is your ultimate goal you are trying to accomplish with this debt?

  • Michael Bovee

    Jenny – I would start by escalating your concerns with how the loan payment was handled by moving up the management chain with the loan company. I would be requesting any additional moneys taken to be applied to the loan balance.

    I would address the issue with your bank and ask that they waive any fees associated with the transaction. Many banks do waive this type of fee if they are informed of the issues surrounding what happened.

    Post a follow up comment here if you are not satisfied with the outcome. It also helps to know the names of the companies involved. For my part, in the event there is a known pattern for these types of issues, it can affect the feedback.

  • sharon

    I got a letter from a collection agency for a Dr. in Ohio, but I lived in IL at the time of the service, the name is the same but they have my social security number attached to it and I don’t even know the person or the Dr. How did my social security number get on the collection letter.

    • Credit Experts

      It could be a mistake, or it could be that a doctor you saw in Illinois used a lab or other services in Ohio. It’s also possible that you’re a victim of medical ID theft. It’s a growing problem, and you can learn more about it here. Medical ID Theft: A Large and Growing Problem.

      At this point, it’s a good idea to send the collection agency a certified letter stating that you don’t believe this bill is yours, and asking for proof of the debt. It would also be a good idea to check with your insurance company or Medicare to see if they were billed for this service.

      Finally, you should check your credit reports with each of the three major credit reporting agencies and dispute any errors you find.
      A Sep-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes.

  • marben

    I received a bill from a collection agency for $11 for a charge. The background is that 1&1 charged me for a URL I no longer wanted. I couldn’t figure out from their website how to cancel it. I didn’t think it would be a problem since the credit card they had was no longer active. When I received an email from them that I still owed them the $11, I called them to refute it but they said according to their policy I owed it. I have now received a letter from a collection agency for this amount. It isn’t a big deal but I don’t want to pay it because of the principle of it. I do not believe GoDaddy would have charged me for the same thing. If I don’t pay the collection agency, do you think they will go any further with it for a mere $11?

    • Credit Experts

      It is certainly possible. Another reader described a situation in which a debt collector was after even less in A Debt Collector Came After Me for $8.97. You may want to consider paying.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I need a little more information in order to try to answer: who was this loan through? What type of loan is it? Is it still on your credit reports?

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  • Michael Bovee

    Kristen – Always show for court. And in this case, be prepared to share all that has transpired with the judge, including being prepared with copies of any documents that substantiate your position.

    I am very interested in what happened in court today. I hope you can post a comment update.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    This is a contractual dispute and we can’t advise you as to whether the landlord had the right to sue you after you cancelled it. You will need to speak with a consumer law attorney with knowledge of landlord-tenant rights. You can look for one at

  • tpr

    I received a verification for a debt for a medical bill. This is not my account and I never have signed the bill or have been to this place. It is my husbands account. Should this be sent in his name so he can verify the debt. Is this an illegal practice

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This is a tricky one. Sometimes spouses can be held responsible for their spouse’s medical bills depending on state law.

  • Credit Experts

    Joe —
    That sounds like a complicated legal situation, and unfortunately, we cannot give legal advice. It sounds as if you need to contact a tax lawyer.

  • Crystal Lane

    Hi. I have a question in regards to a student loan that was made around
    1986. I’m trying to get all of the foot work done so that my father in
    law can possibly find a lawyer he needs. He went to school at Arizona
    Computer Institute. He wasn’t able to finish school. The school is now
    closed down. He filed bankruptcy in 1987. For years now, collection
    agencies have been adding interest to the original loan, and have been
    garnishing 15% of each paycheck. Also, the last tax return was suppose
    to be for $4,000 and they garnished all of it. Supposedly, none of the
    collection agencies have any of the original paperwork for the school
    loan. He does not remember from where he got the original school loan.
    What can he do? Is it possible to get any of the money back if they
    broke any of the FDCPA regulations? Please let me know what other
    information is needed. Thank you so much.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I would suggest you take a look at Joshua Cohen’s website. He specializes in student loan law and offers a free initial consultation:

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Are you certain it was a sheriff? There are debt collectors that are impersonating law enforcement agents in order to collect debts. (Did you independently verify this?)

    What state do you live in?

    Also many business debts require the owners to provide personal guarantees. Do you still have the contract for the loan and are you certain it does not contain a personal guarantee?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Are you in California as well?

  • Credit Experts

    Sorry to hear about the problems you are having with this old medical bill.
    First, we are not lawyers, and we cannot give you legal advice. However, we do have some information about medical bills and minors that you might find useful: Medical Bills and Minors: What You Need to Know.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Dee – Who are you dealing with: the debt collector or the medical ioffice? How much have you paid total so far, and how much do they say you still owe? Over what period of time? Can you please clarify?

  • Credit Experts

    Do you have a copy of the paper she signed saying your debt was paid in full? It’s always good to have written agreements on any financial arrangements. We’re not lawyers, and it sounds as if you may need one. If that’s not financially realistic, you can contact your local legal aid society. Good luck to you.

  • michelle

    I had a person write me a check in 2006 which bounced my account at U.S. Bank. I live in Oregon. I filed paperwork with the bank in 2006, and apparently it didn’t go anywhere. It was turned over to a collection agency which just contacted me yesterday, 2014. The corporate office says they have no records regarding my account and everything is destroyed after 7 years. So I can’t get records showing I filed Fraud with the bank. And on top of it the person who wrote the bad check, also committed other criminal actions including bad checks, credit card use, and bank robbing. The credit collection says they will sue me for the 5000 debt, which was 2000 originally.
    Any advice on what I should do? Or whom I should contact? I have till Monday at 3:30 central time to give them a response.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Michelle, this is not a small amount of money so don’t feel pressured. Even if they decide to sue you there are procedures they must follow and you will have time to respond.

      If I were in your shoes, I would immediately contact a consumer law attorney with experience representing consumers against debt collectors. (Visit to find one in your area.) There are some possible issues here, one of which may be that the statute of limitations has expired for this debt. If it has, then if they try to sue you then you can raise the statute of limitations as a defense and they would lose. Plus the fact that the bank doesn’t have records to back it up means the collection agency doesn’t have records to back it up.

      All in all it sounds like you have some good defense against a debt collection lawsuit. Please read:

      Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not quite following you here, but it sounds like this debt is outside the statute of limitations. And no they can’t “re-date” the debt on your credit reports. If you defaulted in June 2006, this debt should no longer appear on your credit reports. Talk with a consumer law attorney. You may have a case for credit damage as well as violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

  • Credit Experts

    You are right to be suspicious. You have rights that include asking for proof that the debt is legitimate, and no one should pay until that has been provided. You can find more information here: The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collection

  • adam

    i so got in some trouble i owe denver county court $7000 i payed some off while on probation once i got off 9 months later i quit paying them this is back in 2003 i think it was 2004 i stopped paying denver court. now 2014 a guy called says he is with denver court and they need payment so i payed him thinking oh man i better pay up only 100 bucks then i think about it and im like 11 years later they want money??? huh. so i find out its a collection agency he did state any he lied and said he is with denver never said hes collecting a debt so can is there any sol rules here on a 11 years old debt that i never was contacted about until today

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Sometimes these debts owed to the county or state have longer statutes of limitations. You should be able to find out what the rules are through county commissioner or a similar elected official’s office.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The law is pretty clear on debt collectors contacting third parties. They can only contact them to locate the debtor and once they have the calls must stop. In addition, there are limits on contacting 3rd parties. They can only continue to do so if they have new information to share. I’d suggest you tell them that you are unable to help further and that you will be filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if they contact you again. Then do so.

    As for your daughter though, avoiding the collectors is not a good strategy as I am sure you know! She could be sued and a judgment could be entered against her. Share our blog with her and encourage her to find a way to resolve this account.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Yes, interest can often be charged in judgments but the amount varies by the contract and state law. Don’t assume they have calculated it correctly! We wrote about that in this article: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Third party debt collectors aren’t allowed to discuss the debt with someone else. They can only call others to locate the debtor and once they have done that those calls must cease. Talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in debt collection issues or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But keep in mind you are at risk of repossession here. You may want to talk with a bankruptcy attorney to find out if there is an option for keeping your truck.

  • katelyn

    Is there anything that can be done if a credit card company violated the credit CARD act of 2009?

    • Credit Experts

      Yes, you may submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for investigation.

      Good luck to you. And please let us know what happens.

  • Michael Bovee

    I would call and speak with your bankruptcy attorney about this. Post an update with what you learn.

    • Dave Legnosky

      Thank you. I have sent him an email and will see what happens and report back!

  • Julio Quinto

    I moved out of my apartment because burglars and criminal activities has been happening and theives broke into my garage. Now, the management ESSEX corporation has been harrassing me over my 14 days notice and sending the bill for the weeks of my unit not occupied. I actually paid off month of January and moved out on Jan. 21st and now they want me to pay month of February because my notice is only 14 days and management sent me a letter that i will be forwarded to collection agency to ruin my credit…

    • Credit Experts

      In some cases, leases may be broken because of violent crime, but that varies by state. (Your state attorney general’s office should be able to tell you.) If you have a copy of your lease, it likely addresses the issue of breaking the lease.

  • Julio Quinto

    I moved out of my apartment due to criminal activities in our complex like theives stealing cars, gangs, and i was one of the victims that got garage broken by burglars and stole my expensive and priceless items. I moved out with 14 days notice and now ESSEX managent is charging me 1 month for the unit left vacant but i paid off January and left unit on 1/20. The manager did not even inspected my unit so she gets my deposit plus charged me utility bill that’s been paid….i received notice from ESSEX that i will be called by collection agency if i dont pay it now….

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Sue – I don’t know for sure what to tell you. The statute of limitations on utilities can be different and they may be regulated at the state or municipal level. You don’t mention what kind of utility this is – water or electric for example? – but you probably need to find out what regulatory agency regulates them. I would start with your state public utility commission and see if they can point you in the right direction.

    Also if you were contacted by a third party collection agency (and not the utility company itself) you have the right to request written validation of the debt.

    This article may help: 5 Sticky Utility Bill Problems & What to Do About Them

  • Credit Experts

    You need to get copies of your credit report from all three of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Check for this information on your reports and dispute it with the credit bureaus. Keep copies of all correspondence (email or postal mail) and any supporting documents. There resources may be helpful to you:

    How Do I Get My Free Annual Credit Report?
    A Step-byStep Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes
    Help! I Think Someone is Using My Social Security number

  • Credit Experts

    A reader described a similar situation in Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?. While it is a myth that a health care provider won’t send a bill to collections if you’ve been paying on it, if the hospital has been accepting the $100 for eight months, you may have an “implied contract.” You might want to contact a consumer lawyer for advice.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    We wrote about this very topic on the blog: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • felixinmontana

    The debt collector will not give me my account number or balance unless I give them my home address, phone number, work info, friends/family contacts. years ago they practically destroyed my life, by taking a payment made on a ticket and applied it to an old disputed and closed debt, since they applied it to the wrong one, my license was suspended, I did not know, that led to additional tickets, and additional debt. plaqing my life for years. They have swore, threatened and harassed me in the past, but they seem immune from the millions of complaints lodged against them. I dont trust them, how can I get my balance and pay them without bowing to their demands? As you will have already guessed this is Allianceone. washington state will not allow them to be held accountable.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Why don’t you talk with a consumer law attorney? Federal law covers debt collection practices and if the collector has broken the law you may be entitled to damages.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. The good news – if there is some – is that I believe in Colorado you may have greater protections against price gouging than in other states. I found some interesting information on this here:

    Beyond that, you will need to talk with your state attorney general or a personal injury attorney. It may be that your husband’s employment status has been misclassified, that the employer’s liability insurance should have covered the injury and/or that any private insurance you have should have covered it. It is worth at least talking with an attorney to find out.

  • Tina K

    Can I sue a creditor for breaking credit collection laws? They had a number listed for a relative that I asked them to remove plus set up my payment to bring account to current last week. I asked them to contact no one other than myself in regards to my account in future. This morning at 6 am my time a credit call was made to my brother in regards to my account (which recall early in this message I paid it). I called the creditor and talked to a supervisor and she stated that they failed to remove the number and yes they should not have called before 8. What legal recourse do I have if any?

    • Credit Experts

      First, we are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice.

      Your best option may be submitting a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can do that here:

      You may want to contact a consumer lawyer for advice.

      In the meantime, should the problem continue, be sure to document it as best you can.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    First of all, you need to find out exactly who is calling you and tell them to put it in writing. If it is a collection agency by law they have to send you something in writing by mail detailing the debt. If they won’t do that then they are probably a scammer (which is my first guess anyway). If it does turn out the debt is legit you need to research the statute of limitations in your state. A 10-year-old debt will in most cases be too old for them to collect. And certainly a debt that was defaulted on on 2004 should not be on your credit reports.

    Proceed with caution here. You could be the target of a scam. Don’t engage much over the phone. Insist on a letter as required by law.

  • robert

    I just pulled up my credit report this year 2014 and found out that there is a judgment for owed rent back in 2008, I had no idea that my ex wife owed this money for the place she was living before we got married,.. and now divorced,. not only did my name go on the lease but I lived and worked 100 miles away before the judgment was filed , the debt was joint and the full amount is on my credit record, what should I do? any advice would be appreciated .

    • Michael Bovee

      Robert – Are you able to connect with your ex in order to resolve this using a cooperative approach? What is your goal for this account? You can work to resolve it a couple of different ways, and your answer to the first question will impact your choices.

  • Credit Experts

    What state do you live in?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is it a business debt? If so the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply. Also if they are collecting their own debt and not a 3rd party collector it doesn’t apply. As for other local laws that may help, I’ll have to suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney or your state attorney general.

  • jds

    I was scammed several years ago and have been paying on it monthly I admit I have missed some but they are charging me alot of interest and got a letter a couple weeks ago saying I owe more than the scam now and they are taking me to court and going to garnish wages what can I do. I am goin crazy it has wrecked my nerves.

    • Credit Experts

      What do you mean by scam?
      If someone is threatening to sue, you probably want to consult a lawyer. You may want to check with your local legal aid society for a recommendation.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It refers to the contract with the original creditor – the lender, cable company etc. Unfortunately, most times we don’t read that information much less keep it. But it is a contract nonetheless.

  • Sue King Johnson

    My husband and I had a home phone through Southwestern bell back in 1999. When we turned the phone off (because we were unable to pay the bill), they sent us a final bill for $200 + dollars. Then they started calling our cellphones. They call at least 3 times a day every single day on each phone. What can we do to get this to stop? I would pay the bill if I could but we can’t, same thing with a student loan I had from 1987. I’m told them repeatedly the school I attended was sued in a class action lawsuit for misappropriating funds when it came to students Pell Grants. They would tell us that we didn’t get enough in grants to pay for all our tuition and materials, so they’d make us take out student loans. Now with penalties and interest I went from approximately $5000 to over $10,000!

    • Michael Bovee

      Sue – Who is it that is contacting you to collect on your phone bill from 1999? Knowing that would help me to offer more actionable feedback.

      Were you ever sued for the phone bill?

      Were you ever sued for the student loan? It sounds as though the student debt was a private loan. Are your loans private, or funded/consolidated in any way through the government?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry I don’t know. You’ll have to find out whether there are any hardship waivers. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Why do you owe money to the court? Is this some kind of fine? Or was there a judgment against you?

  • Bon Seu

    I saw a MD in 2012 and 2013 WHO said he took my insurance.The insurance company is saying he waited until AFTER the filing time to send in the bill. Now this MDs office is ruining my credit saying I owe them. WHILE ALL ALONG I HAD TWO INSURANCES TO COVER ME. HOW IS THIS MY FAULTH HE HAD AN INCOMPETENT STAFF????

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It is likely not your fault. If he is a participating provider then likely he is not allowed to bill you for his failure to bill your insurance. That’s probably part of his contract with the insurer. Ask your insurance company.

      If he is indeed ruining your credit report then you may be able to sue for credit damage and you may be entitled to damages if you win. I’d suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney right away. They should be willing to give you a free consultation. Visit to find one in your area.

      Let us know how this turns out.

  • Credit Experts

    It depends. Are you making the required minimum monthly payments and paying on time? If you are asking if you can be sent to collections when you are sending in less than the creditor requires, the answer may be yes. You can read more here:
    Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

  • Cameron Crow

    If I’ve paid my debt and the debt collectors continue to call me everyday, after having asked them to stop multiple times, is that grounds for a lawsuit?

    • Michael Bovee

      You should not be getting harassed for a debt you do not owe. Who did you pay, and when?

      You should talk to a consumer law attorney about potential debt collection violations. Try and see if you can locate an attorney in your general area. Distance does not have to be an issue in these cases, so even if an attorney is a few cities away, still worth the call.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ken – It sounds like you really need to talk with an attorney. Please find a consumer law attorney in your area who can help you understand your options here. Visit for a referral. If you can’t afford one, find out if there is a legal aid office in your area that will assist.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Dannie – I am sorry I am not familiar with the details of all 50 states laws with regard to proper service. You’ll need to check with a consumer law attorney and/or try your state attorney general’s office. It wouldn’t hurt to check with a consumer law attorney (visit – if they think you have a good case they probably won’t charge you anything upfront.

  • Kathy P

    I own a business and had a third party doing certain services for me. I owe money to the third party and they are going after my clients for payment, is this legal

    • Michael Bovee

      Kathy – I cannot say whether it is legal or not, you should talk with an attorney in your area about your concerns. That said, it certainly does sound unethical. What line of work are you in?

  • Curtis C

    I have 3 accounts with the same agency for medical bills from 5 years ago that show on my credit report. When I called to pay them off, I was told the payoff amount is different because they charge 10% interest on them per year. When I asked to see their firms interest policy in writing they said that they didn’t need to provide anything. I should have paid the bills on time and if there was an issue I could look at civil code 3287-3289 for proof. This was in California btw. I am currently paying off a lot of old debts that I accrued when I was younger but this is the first I have heard of this practice. Is this common practice?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Yes it is common practice for collectors to charge interest when it is allowed. We wrote about that here:
      Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Michael Bovee

    Nay Lin – I would encourage you to talk with another attorney, but one that specializes in debt collection, no personal injury. There are several in CA with fair debt collection experience. Use the Find Attorney tab at to locate one near you. Most of this attorney type will offer a no cost initial consult.

    I am concerned about the credit reporting threats that are being made by the debt collector, and perhaps other things that were told to you.

  • Dmw

    I am an authorized user on a credit card my husband opened. He is now indigent and confined to a nursing home. I have his power of attorney. CC company acknowledges i am not legally responsible for debt, wrote if off, and then sent collection agency. It is now showing on my credit report as written off and in collections. They are refusing to send me acknowledgement of my not being responsible for the debt, have told me it will take 90 days. I requested a letter saying the same to be faxed to me so I can buy a piece of property – and today they hung up on me. They said I have to wait for them to “investigate”. Any suggestions?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Talk with a consumer law attorney. You may have a case for credit damage and, if so, you may be entitled to damages. Visit to find one in your area.

  • Michael Bovee

    Mike – Was she already sued for the debt,and a judgment entered in court? If not, a debt like this in Colorado would be passed the SOL to legitimately sue your wife in court in order to collect.

    If this is not a judgment debt, and you are certain it is passed the SOL, you can request all communication cease. I recommend sending that request in writing certified mail return receipt. If additional calls and letters are sent after you get the green return receipt card back, post an update and lets go from there.

    • Mike A.

      she was never sued, and I am positive its been more then 14 years since it happened before we got together.(pretty sure the SOL in CO is 6yrs)

      from the way the guy was talking it sounded like he was trying to get me to admit it was her debt, he kept saying he can prove it but would not tell me what the proof was, he wouldn’t even tell me the name of the collection agency he was calling from, I asked several times and he kept saying he is not required to give me that information (either the proof or the name of his company)

      in my mind there is only one of 2 reasons he would not give me that info, 1) its either because its confidential and cant without verifying who I really am (understandable on that one)
      or 2) he had no proof and didn’t want us to be able to send a letter to stop contact…

      thank you for the fast response

  • Michael Bovee

    mash – I would encourage you to file a collection complaint with the CFPB about this. Your situation may not reach a level that others would recommend this step, but I would disagree.

    Gym memberships can be notoriously difficult to cancel. And with the work I do, I am more than familiar with the types of issue you bring up with the same gym. Selling debts like this add to any companies bottom line, even if marginally.

    It would be much better if you had all of the documentation, but a clear and concise chronology of all that took place should be sufficient to launch the complaint and elicit a response from the collection firm.

  • Michael Bovee

    CK – Is this the first you were made aware of having been sued? And is what you received notice of an actual judgment that has been filed in court, notice that you are being sued, or a collection letter with the disclaimer about if you were sued a copy of a judgment will be provided to you?

    • CK

      Actually it’s not a judgement yet, I read over it. But it’s a notice from the court saying that I’m being sued. It says I have 30 days to inform them of what I want to do or I can try to settle things with the plantiff (portfolio recovery associates). I mailed them a letter today requesting DV. It’s that a good move or is it too late?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I wish I could advise you but I am not familiar with the specifics of all state laws. I have to suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney or your state attorney general.

  • julie

    I had a company take money off my credit card for cancellation fees without my authorization and they been try as from my credit card company has mentioned they been doing it for 28 days and varies amount now i have to wsit for a despute to settle. What else can i do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Julie – I am so sorry but I really don’t understand your question. Are you talking about a credit card dispute? If so this article may help. How to Dispute a Credit Card Bill

      If not, please feel free to post your question again with more details.

  • Credit Experts

    Jessica —
    The federal laws governing debt collection practices apply the third-party collectors, not the original creditor. A state law might address the situation you’re asking about, though. What state do you live in?

  • Credit Experts

    If you request it, any collection agency must send you, in writing, verification of the debt. It must be sent via postal mail. If the person calling cannot or will not provide it, you should not pay. You’ll find more information here:
    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

  • Michael Bovee

    You will want to talk with an experienced debt collection defense attorney in Arizona in order to determine what your next steps are going to be. There are ways to undo something like this, and the attorney can advise how any methods would apply to you.

    You can also request a hearing to show how the garnishment would create a hardship on your family. The court will apply a set standard for income and expenses, which could result in your being partially, or completely exempt from garnishment.

  • Julie Gay

    I have recently got divorced in 2011. Feb 2011 I had to have surgery. I was still on my husband/ex husband insurance until June 2011. Insurance had paid all bills, but in June when my ex husband took me off his insurance they reversed the bills to not paid. It has been almost 3 years since I was removed from his insurance. Insurance company back dated it to Jan 31, 2011 that I was removed but they sent me a letter stating I was removed in June 2011. I have NOT received any bills from them. Today April 18, 2014 I received a notice from a collection agency say I owe $1770 for this surgery. What should I do? I’m in Alabama

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Julie – Did you ever try to challenge it with the insurance company that they reversed those bills? I am not sure how that works with insurance – whether they can do that when you were covered at the time.

  • Peter

    Hi, my name is Peter and I live in CO. During 2013, I was served with court papers from a collection (credit card) company. Unfortunately, I was not able to appear in court and they won by default. I reviewed my credit and there’s a judgement on there (no surprise). Also, my credit report shows that the originally lender said my account was opened in 2007 and “closed”/ sold to another lender in March 2009. I looked up the statue of limitation and it is good for three years if someone wants to sue. How is it that this third party collection company was able to file paperwork to sue me, knowing that they were clearly outside the statue of limitation? Is this a new tactic… hoping to win by default, if you’re outside the statue? I think the best option for me would be to reopen the case and submit the statue of limitation that I found directly from the CO site. I want to know if there’s anything else I should consider attaching with the document that may help my case. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Yes that happens – and probably more often than it should. My understanding is that in some states it is illegal for them to sue once the statute of limitations has expired, In other cases, the defendant needs to raise the SOL as a defense. I would suggest you at least talk with a consumer law attorney to find out your rights here.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It doesn’t sound right that they can reverse it when you were covered at the time but unfortunately I just don’t know enough about these insurance rules to advise you. Have you tried contacting your state department of insurance?

    In the meantime you do have the right to dispute the debt with the collection agency. You must do so in writing within 30 days and I recommend sending a certified letter if you do. It doesn’t make the bill go away but can buy you some time when you find out what your rights are with regard to the insurance issue.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I would suggest you either talk with a consumer law attorney who specializes in student loans (visit for a referral) or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who may be able to help you.

    • Confused

      Thank you, I am waiting on one to call me. I did ask the school for proof of me signing a form that I owe them and received a response that they do not have one.

  • Christine

    My husband had a judgment against from Arrow financial services and now the lawyer want o change the name to the right name of the of the plaintiff after 2 year can he do that. Even thought he has closed the case and sen it back to the lawyer that had the case the first time With LVNV funding. Is the lawyer suit even legal if Arrow Financial Services did not hole the contract for this case.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I would suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney who can explain your rights. The consultation will likely be free and if it turns out the collector is breaking the law they may be required to pay your attorney fees and damages. Visit for a referral.

  • Christine

    Sorry I for got the The Law suit was filed in Fl and final judgment was may of 2012 LVNV bought it from Arrow Financial on June 26 of 2012 hope this helps thank u again.

  • Christine

    Sorry June 26 2011 is when it was bought LVNV not June of 2012

  • Michael Bovee

    Mike – A clearly worded request that all communication cease is sufficient. I would keep it simple.

  • Credit Experts

    Shena —
    If you ask a creditor to verify the debt, they must provide it (via postal mail). That’s part of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You can learn more about your rights here:
    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

  • Credit Experts

    Do you have a way to document your request that they not call? (If not, you can send a letter, via registered mail, asking them not to call at your workplace, so that you will have documentation.) Federal law requires that they stop if you request it. You may need to get in touch with a consumer law attorney if this does not fix the problem. (Initial consultations are usually free.) Another option is to report them to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Here’s a post that may also be useful to you:

    Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights

  • Raven Cassidy

    In 1998 my boyfriend at the time sent away for a credit card for me without me knowing. I was 18 at the time and didn’t have a job, he swore he was going to pay the balance, it was only a $200.00 limit, of course it was maxed to the limit within a week for food and cigarettes, I was very naive at that time and had no clue what interest rates were.. of course this capital one card had an extremely high rate. Long story short, my boyfriend cheated and broke up with me and of course went back on his word that he was paying the bill ( he used a lot of it) so I got stuck with it…. years went by and I didn’t hear anything from the company then I started to get harassed, and now it’s been 16 years and they are saying I owe them like $1800.00.. how can they be allowed to charge interest at such a high rate and shouldn’t there be laws that stop these companies from trying to make you pay double or even 10 times the original amount??? I refuse to pay and I don’t care about my credit I believe the entire system is a scam and is only in existence to enslave our society….

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This debt is very likely too old (outside the statute of limitations.) In most states that time period is up in 4-6 years. If you find it is outside the statute of limitations for your state you can simply send the collector a letter stating that you know the debt is too old and then ask them not to contact you again. If they do, talk with a consumer law attorney or file a complaint with the CFPB.

      We wrote more about this here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It shouldn’t change the statute of limitations. Perhaps your debt was sold to a new collection agency? Hard for me to say based on your question.

  • JMAO

    I received a notice from Convergent Outsourcing that is a debt collector that the creditor is Galaxy Asset Purchasing and the original creditor is Citibank. I never had a credit card with Citibank. They are trying to get a judgment to garnish my wages. What do I do?

    • Michael Bovee

      How long ago were you sued?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Maybe – if it’s the company itself (and not a third party collector) then it depends on state law. (Creditors aren’t covered by the FDCPA.) I would encourage you to contact a consumer law attorney. Visit to find one in your area. Another option is to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is considering extending the protections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to creditors.

  • Smgonzo

    I recently got a letter from a hospital I was admitted to stating they have utilized the clear balance program for my balance which I have been making payments on and it’s basically a loan that I did not apply for or want because they will charge me interest on my balance. Are they allowed to do that?!

    • Credit Experts

      Was the hospital a for-profit hospital or a nonprofit? And was there any agreement before this on how your payments would be handled?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Absolutely not. Collection accounts may be reported for seven years plus 180 days from the original date of delinquency – the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. Whether you made a payment is irrelevant. You can either talk with a consumer law attorney or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No. We wrote about that in this story: Can a Bad Debt Get You Deported?

    It sounds like the whole thing was dubious at best and perhaps a scam. The FTC has written about that here:

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Are you saying they just reported a collection account from 2005 on your report? If so they may well have broken the law. It’s hard to see how a collection account from nine years ago could be reported now. You can either talk with a consumer law attorney (visit to find one) or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    This article may help: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Deb

    I have a timeshare, maintenance fees due every year. 20 years now we have always paid the month we use our time, every year we go so we have never not paid our yearly fee.. New management now, they added a rule to pay all fees by April or interest charged this fair?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I suppose it depends on the contract you have with the timeshare company and whether they are allowed to change the way they bill the annual fee. Have you looked at the contract to see what it says?

  • Erin

    I don’t know what to do about this debt collector. He is calling people who I hardly know and asking if they know my husband and I. When they say yes he saids they are from my children school. Then ask these people if they know my children he does use there names. Every single one of them hung up the phone then tried to get a hold of us. Its freaking me out. They company is only a few hours from my house. What can I do about this my kids a 9 and 12.

    • Michael Bovee

      Erin – Go to and click on find an attorney in the upper navigation. Find an attorney closest to you that has debt collection/FDCPA experience. Call and talk about everything that is going on. Initial consults are often done at no cost.

  • Michael Bovee

    I doubt it Judy. From the sounds of what you shared, you are potentially dealing with a collection scam, or a debt collector willing to step way over the line. I would encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney about your rights, and your options.

    You can locate an attorney with the experience needed through Most offer a free initial consult.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Rob – Unfortunately the lender probably isn’t required to notify you that the payments are delinquent and as a cosigner you are on the hook for the full amount. You may want to talk with your divorce attorney to find out whether you can force your ex to sell (it doesn’t sound like refinancing will be an option with her bad credit) or at least collect what she is supposed to be paying. Then you may need to try to work out a deal with the lender where you catch up the loan in exchange for them removing this from your credit. The lender is under no obligation to do that, but perhaps they will cooperate in order to bring the loan current.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The judgment creditor is required to file a satisfaction of judgment. The time period they have to do that depends on the requirements in your state but it is usually within 15 – 30 days. They may be liable for damages if they fail to do so.

    Since you’ve got a really important loan on the line here it may make sense to talk with a consumer law attorney. You could also contact the court where the judgment was entered and ask what the requirements are in your state.

  • dmitri senda

    I keep getting calls from an apparent collection agency that when I call back won’t tell me who they are. They keep saying on the phone messages they want me to be home and be available to receive ” required legal documents as required by my state “. All of my debt is more than 4 years old ( I live in california ). I became ill & can no longer work. When they call their number says unavailable under the caller ID which is against the law. I’ve gotten 3 calks from these people & no mail comes to the home address. It all goes to my po box because my mailbox was broken into. I have left a complaint with the cal attorney general by posting their phone number but how do you stop an illegality when you don’t know who is calling you ?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It’s very tough to stop this because in many cases they are based overseas and are using cheap technology to place robocalls. You may need to look into whether your phone company offers some kind of call screening service that would intercept calls before they ring on your line. You’ll find more suggestions in this article: How to Beat Debt Collection Scammers at Their Game

  • mike hunt

    My wife’s ex husband wrote checks, in her name, to an advance check place several years ago (ten plus) we keep getting phone calls (latest one from Florida) drying they’re trying to get confirmation for the sheriff’s dept to serve her papers…..i tried calling back and hey nothing but voicemail. What can i do, pretty sure it’s illegal.

  • Erin

    I received a call from someone claiming they purchased my credit card debt from a jewelry store. I called the store and they told me the account was a charge off and they didn’t know who was calling me. I haven’t received any court documents but get threating messages saying I’m being sued. What should I do ? Is this real or a scam ? It been almost 6-7 years that I had the card debt.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It’s hard to say. If could have been purchased by a debt buyer. The first thing you need to do is find out what the statute of limitations is in your state. Is the debt too old? If so then you can tell them you know the debt is time barred and they are threatening to sue you then are probably breaking the law. If it is not too old for them to sue you then you would be wise to at least talk with them to find out what’s happening. Ask them to send you written notice of the debt which is required by law. This article may be useful:
      What Happens If I Ignore Debt Collectors?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately I don’t have a simple answer for you. it will be tough to rent given your prior history – at least until you’ve built other positive references. Perhaps this article will help: How to Rent With Bad Credit

  • Lord Ezra

    I joined the Army Reserves and was supposed to get a sign up bonus of $6,000.00. I only collected $2,000.00 but the reserves couldn’t find a unit close enough to where I lived so I was discharged before fulfilling my entire contract. I have been out for 18 months and just recently received a notice from a collection agency saying I owed over $5,000.00. The government took $1,300.00 from my income taxes last year but still say I owe this amount. I never received an initial bill from the gov., just this notice now that it is with a collection agency. The agency is claiming the Army can still continue to add more fines and fees the longer it takes to pay it. I thought once it is in collections it couldn’t go up more, am I wrong on that?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      The amounts may increase during collections. We wrote about that here: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

      However, that doesn’t mean this is the correct amount you owe. I’d suggest you ask for detailed verification of the debt and if you can get a satisfactory answer as to why it is so high, contact CFPB Office of Servicemember Affairs or your elected officials in Washington.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to those questions because I am not familiar with this type of debt. For the bankruptcy question, you’ll need to talk with a bankruptcy attorney. Most debts can be discharged in bankruptcy but there are exceptions. There is no harm in asking. As for who owns it, again, I don’t know. You can ask the collection agency whether they own it – but I am assuming they are probably collecting on behalf of the federal government.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not an attorney but that certainly sounds like an illegal collection tactic. Collectors are not allowed to misrepresent themselves. I would suggest your girlfriend immediately talk with a consumer law attorney who regularly handles consumer debt collection cases (she can visit to find one). She may be entitled to damages and if the collector broke the law the attorney will likely take the case for free since the collector would have to pay her attorney’s fees.

  • Credit Experts

    We put your question to Connecticut bankruptcy attorney Eugene Melchionne, who said it’s extremely unlikely. He did wonder why the co-signer made the down payment, though he said that shouldn’t give the co-signer more rights. In general, with a loan that is current, a co-signer has no rights at all; if the loan were in default, the co-signer could sue the primary borrower, “but certainly not have him arrested,” Melchionne said.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry but I am not familiar with consumer protection laws in the Philippines.

  • Laura Amos

    My husband has some unpaid medical bills, 5 of them are passed the statute of limitations from my understanding of that statute, and 2 are from 4 years ago. The debt collector keeps calling me and says that I’ve not made a payment according to the payment plan we set up…the thing is I never set one up, mainly because I think the insurance company was supposed to cover more than they did. The collector also told me twice that this is about to go to “legal.” The last time I spoke with her she identified her name and business but did not give the speech of “this is an attempt to collect a debt.” Is all of this legal?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Probably not. If you didn’t set up a payment plan then the collector is probably misrepresenting the debt. You can talk with an attorney who regularly represents consumers in debt collection cases (visit for a referral – consult should be free) or you can complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

  • Michael Bovee

    What type of debt is this?
    What is the name of the debt collector?
    Were you taken to court for this debt?

    Payments from your employers payroll office directly to a debt collector will generally only be forced if there is a judgment against you in court, and your state allows for garnishment.

  • Michael Bovee

    The debt validation request may be preventing them from making additional collection efforts. Until they are able to meet their obligation to respond to your request, they may just decide to do nothing.

    Have you contacted the original company and discussed why it is any amount of debt is considered owed, and now in collection? Is there still some perceived contractual obligation for costs (other than materials which you returned)?

    It would be good to know what contractual basis the company says they are relying on to assert you owe anything. Post an update with what you learn and lets go from there.

  • Michael Bovee

    Probably not by force without a judgment. You may want to talk to your states department of banking, or consumer affairs department to verify what payday lenders are allowed to do.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What kind of debt is this? How were you notified?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Whether they can still successfully collect depends on the statute of limitations in your state. Regardless, you shouldn’t have someone calling to curse you out. Have you been able to get the name of the company?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    How about filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If it is over 10 years old it may well be outside the statute of limitations. I would encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney asap. Visit if you need to locate one who regularly helps consumers with consumer debt collection issues. They may take your case at no cost to you if the collection agency is breaking the law.

  • Nick

    I have an account with Comcast and haven’t missed a payment in months so I thought. The account is solely in my name however my fiance have approval to speak with Comcast about the account and pay the bill. Since we recently moved the address was updated but my fiance just got a call from a collections agency and disclosed the debt to her. I used to be a debt collector and know the FDCPA laws but it has been a while since I was in that industry so I’m not sure what I can do. I just spoke to Comcast and verified that she is only able to talk to Comcast and shouldn’t have had the debt disclosed to her…

    Please Advise!



    • Gerri Detweiler

      Nick your choices in this situation are to either talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in FDCPA matters (you can find one at or to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is this a public or private hospital?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is this a public or private hospital?

  • Credit Experts

    No, not everyone does. But a creditor who takes ONLY prepaid debit cards is something to be feared. We wrote about that here: The One Way You Should Never Pay a Debt Collector.

    And declining your offer is also legal. We wrote about that in Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Felony? I don’t think so! Don’t freak out. This has all the hallmarks of a debt collection scam. Read this: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

  • Gerri Detweiler

    We can’t say for certain as the amount they are allowed to charge depends on the contract and state law. But it is often legal for collectors to add interest and other costs to a debt. We wrote about that here: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

    Still, you can’t afford to pay that amount try to negotiate with them. We do not recommend you allow a collector access to your bank account. Read more:The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector

  • Michael Bovee

    Talk to a consumer law attorney with a practice that focuses on both FDCPA and FCRA violation. Go to to see if there are any in your area.

    With your income limited to disability, you may qualify for low to no cost hesitance through legal aid. Locate the nearest legal aid office and speak with them.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Probably since you authorized them to withdraw the payments from your account. You may need to revoke that authorization in writing or close your account, depending on the terms of your contract.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Maybe. We wrote about that in this article: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Michael Bovee

    Pull together all of the details and file a complaint with the CFPB here:

    Legitimate debt collectors do not threaten you with fraud charges, or threaten some “compliance officer” is going to visit you. You are likely being targeted by scammers. And they have a good amount of your personal information, so… I would also look into subscribing to a credit monitoring program too.

  • Michael Bovee

    What you described should not extend the SOL for them, but I can see how they thought they were within the time limit to sue, if all that you outlined is indeed what occurred.

    Do you have an attorney? It is up to you how you want to handle this, but their flawed systems are not your problem. If it were me, I would seriously consider working with an FDCPA expert attorney… and sue them.

    You can look for they type of attorney you need that is nearest you at

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I agree with Michael completely on this one. It sounds like they have either intentionally or unintentionally made an “error” and may be breaking the law. Fortunately California has a strong state consumer protection law, the Rosenthal Act, in addition to federal law. If you have a good case the attorney will likely represent you at no cost as the debt collector will have to pay your attorney’s fees if it is breaking the law.

  • Gerri Detweiler


    I know this is extremely stressful but it sounds exactly like the tactics that shady collectors use. We have a story coming out on Monday or Tuesday that I think you’ll find relevant. In the meantime, do not pay them a penny until you verify that this debt is legitimate and that it’s not too old. When did you default in this lease? What state you live in? What is the name of the collection agency and have you done a search online to find out what kinds of complaints are out against them? It sounds to me that they are just trying to pressure you and scare you into paying without following the requirements debt collectors must abide by under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    If you haven’t done so please get your free annual credit reports to find out what is reported.

  • Michael Bovee

    You could settle the judgment for less than what you owe.
    You could talk to an attorney who regularly defends against debt collectors, and perhaps learn you have legal options too.

    What are you inclined to do with this debt? How much is still owed?

    • DS

      I tried to talk to the collection agency about settling for less and they refused. I also tried to find out how they got a judgment against me when I was never served and never learned of the judgment until after they took the money from out accounts, he said they served me prior, but I never was and when I told this to him, he got upset and started telling me that he was there to get payment not to answer my questions about how it happened.
      They won’t back off any of the interest or any thing, When they drained our accounts they kept all of it and only gave the Hospital $400 out of all they took.
      I am afraid to start paying them now as the last time I lost everything that owned, so I am not sure what to do. They have me still owing over $4000 from a debt that if I remember correctly was around $3000

      • Michael Bovee

        Start off with talking to a consumer law attorney that specializes in debt collection defense. The largest listing of the attorney type you need can be found at

        What is the name of the collection attorney that sued? What was the name of the plaintiff if not the hospital, or specific service provider?

  • Michael Bovee

    Being sued, and potentially ending up with a judgment in the court record against you, has nothing to do with having a social security number. Your social security number would help a debt collector skip trace your whereabouts, bank accounts, collectability, etc. All of which are things to be concerned about after a judgment is entered.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Probably not. However to protect yourself I would suggest you write them a letter stating your name and address and that you dispute the bill. State you never ordered anything and that you are only 16 years old. Send by by certified mail and keep a copy of your records – including proof of delivery – somewhere you can find it indefinitely in case it comes up in a couple of years. This is not legal advice, however, and you may want to contact your state attorney general’s office.

  • phuc

    I tried to buy a phone from verizon but didn’t go through . So why are they sendinhg me monthly bills to pay . Can I file a lawsuit

    • Credit Experts

      If it is a simple mistake, you might first reach out to Verizon to try to get it corrected. And if you want to consult a consumer law attorney to see if a lawsuit is warranted, you could do that.

  • Jamie H.

    I had a judgement filled in 2010 for condominium fees, got garnished, changed jobs (laid off) and they had stopped contacting me and now in October 2014 I just happened to check my credit and it was still there with an attorney’s office gathering 6% for 3 years (the girl at the office said my fill was “put to the side apparently”) and I now owe my debt of $3800 and $1900+ in fees that I will be garnished for shortly (just happened to check the court in the city i live in…). I tend to think this is unjust. Thoughts?

  • Jennifer

    My husband ran his credit report last week to find that middle of last year NYSEG sent him to collections for a debt they claimed he didn’t pay for 5 months back in 2009-2010. They never once sent him letters to that location or any further location that he had. they never shut his service off either during those times. we contacted the company and the debt collector to send us all the notices and apaperwork they claimed to have sent but are not sending it. what can we do to get this taken care of. He did adrress forwarding for all the apartments we have had as well as has even had RGBGE in his name a few years ago. They never once said anything never contacted us nothing. and now 5 years later have it sitting on his credit report. I check his report every year and this was not even on there till a month after i checked it last year.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Is this a business debt or a personal debt? If it’s a personal debt than the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act apply. If this is a rental property (a business debt) then the same consumer protection laws don’t apply and I’m afraid I can’t help you. You would need to contact the state regulator that regulates that utility for advice or assistance.

      • Jennifer

        It is a personal debt. My husband and his roommate rented a 2 family home from a private party. They rented 1 half of the home. The nyseg energy bill was in my husbands name. Service was never shut off. They were never notified they had a past due balance and they never sent any paperwork or anything. Then they waited almost 5 years to send it to collections still with out any notification. The collection agency stated they tried contacting my husband at the old address but that the mail was undeliverable bc he had not lived there in 5 years and his address forwarding had ended. Now we are struggling to get any paperwork from nyseg and it’s been 6 business days

        • Gerri Detweiler

          You should still talk to the regulator for the utility since consumer protections with regard to utility bills vary by state. As far as the debt collector goes, have you disputed it in writing? If it has not been more than 30 days since they contacted you send them a certified letter stating you don’t believe you owe the bill and asking them to verify it and provide proof that you owe it. If they don’t, you can either contact a consumer law attorney or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These old bills are such a mess and so hard to clear up.

          I would also encourage you to check on the state statute of limitations for this debt. It may be time barred at this point. This article discussed that issue as well as how long the debt can be reported:

          Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Larry is correct that it can still be reported after it has been paid off, provided the obsolescence period has not expired. However it is seven years plus 180 days from the date the account went delinquent with the original creditor leading up to when it was placed for collection.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ah interesting. Thanks for clarifying that.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s hard to say but if it has been sent to collections you do have rights with regard to the collection notice. If you received it recently, dispute it in writing via certified mail. Tell them you don’t believe you owe the debt and ask for proof. If you still don’t think the charges are legitimate you may want to either file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or get an attorney involved. Make sure you also get your free annual credit reports and get your free credit score so you have proof of how this has affected your credit. That information may be very useful if you have to pursue a credit damage lawsuit.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Do you have the name of the company? If so check them out with the BBB and poke around online. My guess is you are not the only victim of this. File a complaint with the FTC, BBB, your state attorney general and tell them you are doing so.

  • Denise

    HELP! I live in Texas and am disabled and on Medicaid I went to the dentist when there was still a dental plan to a provider they sent me to. The provider preformed a service, knowing that was not covered by Medicaid. At the end of my visit I was sent to see a financial adviser who told me that I need surgery to extract a tooth and it would require me to be put to sleep. This would cost “ME” $856.00. My income is such that I don’t even make that a month. I wrote filed a complaint with Medicaid about this provider. I started receiving a bill from them for the service they preformed without my knowledge that it wasn’t covered (a full mouth X-ray) that I refused to pay. They now have turned it over to a collection agency who calls me a talks down to me like I am uneducated. No where in my policy did it discuss full mouth X-rays. What can I do to stop these people?

  • blue

    There is a statue of limitations in EVERY STATE and at 27 that ship has sailed. One it has passed the statue of limitations they no longer are able to file suit. Protection of bank accounts: do not have anything directly deposited to your bank accounts such as funds from work. SS, disability, pension, retirement, unemployment and any other funds from the state are all protected so long as these are directly deposited. Anything else don’t put it in the account, get a prepaid card they can not levy those. In most cases the only other option for recourse for litigation is a lien on the home and this just means that if you sell they will take what’s is owed prior to you seeing the proceeds. Some states will not allow the sale of a home that has a lien so you would need to check with state laws. I work for a debt settlement company and that’s where all this knowledge has been gained!

    • Richard Fisher

      They didn’t have my banking info I use the direct express debit card all they had was the card number and security number thanks

  • Michael Bovee

    If it were me I would show up and state the facts of the matter.

    I would also get in touch with a debt collections and consumer rights attorney (with FDCPA experience). Most offer a no cost initial consult. If there are issues with the way the debt collector has gone about handling this with you, and I think there may be, the attorney can advise you. Many fair debt collection violations attorney’s will take your case and progress it at no charge when the violations they see are clear.

    It would be great if you posted an update with what happens today, and after speaking to an attorney.

  • Ztronical

    I received an automated call stating that the collector has papers to serve me. And to call back at a toll-free number. I should not have any outstanding debt. Any issues I had are well over 10 years old.
    I spoke to someone a few months ago who said I owed. I said any debt problems I may have had are well over 10 years and I wasn’t sure if this was even legal or my debt. I told them not to call my cell phone and hung up.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Glad you are being careful. It could very well be a scam from a debt buyer who bought an old debt. It’s rare for process servers to give you a heads up that they will be serving you.

      • Richard Fisher

        Hello I have a debt collector calling and harrassing my mother about a loan I “took”
        Out in 2013 I have agreed to settle the dispute which is 120 $ a month for five months and the balance is 500$ I am on social security income they cannot legally garnish my pay from social security correct ? I.have given them my info they are a loan debt collector called del ray capital out of buffalo New York and are not registered on the bbb site do you think this could be a scam the only information they gave me was my old email that I don’t use anymore and the date when it took place just august 2013 is what they said docusigned the contract and everything

        • Gerri Detweiler

          If a debt collector is calling your mother and harassing her about “your” loan that is a tip off right there that they are either a scammer or rogue collection agency. Proceed with extreme caution. This article may help: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

          • Richard Fisher

            Thank you I have ordered a new debit card and have closed out the old one

          • Gerri Detweiler

            Please let us know what happens. You may want to also file a complaint about this company with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the FTC. This story may interest you: Debt Collectors Claimed to Be U.S. Marshals in $4.1M Scheme, FBI Alleges

  • Betty

    A doctor’s office called my mother last night looking for me. She was very clear and said she was not me and the lady told her she was going to send my account to collections. Isn’t that illegal? She then called me and told me the same thing. When I pointed out she shouldn’t have given that info to my mom, she said that she only said it because she didn’t believe my mother wasn’t me. Can they do this???

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Although the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn’t apply to collectors collecting their own debts, HIPAA regulations against revealing medical related information to third parties are pretty strict from what I understand. I’d suggest you consult a consumer law attorney.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Yes, you may be able to sue if they won’t stop. Wrote about that here: New Ruling: Debt Collectors Could Be Fined $1,500 Every Time They Call

    Another option would be to try a call screening service through your phone company, or

  • Jennifer

    A debt collector called my in laws pretending to be a Doctors office calling to confirm an appointment I supposedly have with them to try to get me to call. Is this legal for them to do that?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Absolutely not. Debt collectors are not allowed to impersonate someone else. In addition, it’s possible this is a violation of your privacy under HIPPA. I would really urge you to talk with a consumer law attorney familiar with debt collection laws. You can visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates if you need help finding one.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What state do you live in? Did this occur in that state?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Pam – State laws regarding foreclosure vary. Given this is likely a large loan amount, I’d really encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney to find out what your rights and options are here.

  • cindy

    I live in Wisconsin and midland funding purchased a debt that was not outside the statute of limitations. I went to court and a judgment was given for the full amount. The law firm of Kohn then (they claim) put a lien on my house (mortgage) but they learned that I have money in my checking account from my home-owners insurance to be paid next spring or before april 1st for work not finished following a huge tree branch falling on my house. Problem is this: They now want to know how much is in the bank because Midland Finding, their client would rather not wait and take these funds! I paid the vast majority already to the tree removal services but still need some carpentry and shingle work, gutter work etc. I work part time and am on food stamps so they can’t garnish my wages but this seems very wrong to me. I need to call them apparently not they call me and Im already 1 day late in calling. Can they take this money that isn’t even mine?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Yes those funds are at risk, Please call a consumer bankruptcy attorney asap to find out how to protect them.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is it a debt collector who is calling you? If so, by law they must stop calling you at work if you tell them to stop. I am concerned that you could be dealing with a scammer. Ask the collection agency for their address, then send them a certified letter stating you want them to mail you proof of the debt and to stop calling you at work. If they won’t cooperate, contact your state attorney general’s office or Also read this: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Talk with a consumer law attorney. The rules are somewhat different once they have a judgment against you. But you need to know what your rights are if you can’t or don’t pay them. The good news is that if you are able to resolve this, either by paying it in full or reaching a settlement, it should come off your credit reports since PAID judgments are only reported for seven year. (UNPAID judgments may be reported for up to the statute of limitations, which is longer in most states.) You can find a consumer law attorney at the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Or you can talk with a bankruptcy attorney who should be familiar with the same issues.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is it a debt collector calling or the jeweler itself? If the former, then the collection agency is likely breaking the law and you should talk with a consumer law attorney right away. (Visit the National Assocation of Consumer Advocates for a referral to one in your area.) If it’s a creditor then their actions may or may not be legal, depending on laws in your state. I would still say it’s worth checking with a consumer law attorney. If it’s not illegal, you may want to still file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No they can’t re-age the debt. The original date of delinquency should be reported accurately. Dispute it and keep good records. If a collection agency manipulates the date on a debt to report it longer you may be entitled to damages. Please read this: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Credit Experts

    It is unlikely. We wrote about debts and expiration dates here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t see how, but I am not an attorney. You may want to get a consultation with a bankruptcy attorney to be sure.

  • Kacey

    Hello I live in ohio and just turned 21 last November and am receiving calls after getting no notices that I owe a debt by a debt collection agency. They are calling me about a debt that apparently I owe from 2006 when I was like 10 and February 2011 when I was 17. They are telling me that because I am of age and my parents never paid it, I am responsible to pay it and it will ruin my credit unless I pay it off even though at the time of these bills I was under age and never signed anything until I was 18. Are they legally allowed to do this to me and I have to pay or is there something I can do so that they can go after my parents instead of me?

    • Credit Experts

      Kacey —
      Please do not pay it. You are correct that you are not responsible for debts incurred when you were a minor. There are a couple of things we recommend. One is to submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You might also consider reporting it to your state attorney general’s office. Finally, check your credit reports. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports. You want to make sure those debts are not listed. If you see that they are, you can dispute it with each agency. It would be best to do it by certified mail (so you have proof of delivery), and you should send a copy of your birth certificate. That should clear it up. Good luck to you, and please let us know if you need further help.

      • Kacey

        I called after checking online and they do one bill on my credit so I made a dispute but they only had the 2011 one on my credit and not the 2006 but it looks like they are trying to put that one on my credit report as well. When I called they said they will investigate it and in 20 or so days they will send me a letter stating what they found and the end result. Hopefully this gets fixed because I have no clue how to do much of anything else. Thank you so much for your help, if it wasn’t for you I would still be stressing out.

        • Credit Experts

          It’s possible you’ll need to send them a copy of your birth certificate via postal mail. But you can certainly wait to see results of the online dispute. And remember to do it with all three credit bureaus; they do not share information. Here’s how:
          How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?

  • Credit Experts

    Brandy —
    We are not lawyers, and it sounds as if you need one. You could also try calling law enforcement or a battered women’s shelter to find out what the local laws are. However, a collector cannot put a judgment on your credit report. That comes from a judge. (The creditor could take you to court, though, and a judgment could come from there.) These resources might be useful to you:
    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?
    state landlord tenant laws
    Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?

  • Michael Bovee

    The threat to garnish your wages – when they cannot in PA – may be a collection violation. Calling them out on that, and in the right way, could potentially lead to a better outcome for you.

    If it were me, before I go any further looking at my options, I would contact an experienced debt collection defense attorney in PA. I would suggest connecting with one you find nearer you through – attorneys you find listed there tend to offer a no cost initial consult.

    Post an update with what you learn and lets go from there.

  • SPC1972

    Yes, I would send the letter and also ask them to provide the contract you signed with the law firm stating you are liable for the debt, chances are they can’t provide the information. As they bought the debt, it is paid and you no longer owe the debt.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry I just don’t understand your question. Can you try restating it?

  • Credit Experts

    Lynette —
    It’s possible this is a scam. Ask them for a “validation of the debt.” By law, they must send you that via postal mail if you request it. It is never smart to pay a debt collector until you are certain they actually own the debt. Also consider calling the collector you have been paying and ask if the debt was sold or transferred. Also, check your credit reports to see if this new agency is listed. (Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.) Here’s more on collectors:
    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

  • Krystal Hixson

    Hi I just received a letter in the mail today from a debt collector from a medical bill from a hospital bill in Texas that went to collections from 5/4/2007 I thought after 7 years that they can no longer do this. A new debt collector just purchased this debt and sent me a bill. Help me please on what I should do? Thank you in advance for any responses.

    • Credit Experts

      Krystal —
      The debt can’t be reported 7 years and 180 days after it originally went late. But it may well have a different date for how long it can be collected. The different deadlines can be confusing. We addressed it in this post: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s a valid question. If they did not properly serve you, you may be able to get the judgment vacated. I’d suggest you at least get an initial consultation with a consumer law attorney in Oregon. You need to find out if you have any recourse. If you don’t, this could haunt you for a very long time. If you are having trouble finding an attorney I suggest you use the search function on the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry I can’t be of help but this really is a situation where you need to talk with your attorney. As for publicly shaming him, I wouldn’t recommend you do that without talking with your attorney.

  • Zach

    I’m 21 years old an have had the same phone number for about 8-10 years an I have been getting collection calls since day one and it’s not even me that they are calling about, or anyone I even know. So I did what every kid dose my age an blocked the number well it’s 2015 an I have blocked 9 different numbers an still get called. The first year I had the phone number I had them speak to my mother an tell them they have the wrong number but that was 7 years ago an didn’t help one bit. Now then call off unknown number. I get called in work and did as well in school just want it to end and seeing if there is any way out of this nightmare.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s an old debt and they are threatening fraud so I am pretty confident they are scammers. Engaging with them will probably just fuel the fire. You may want to read this article: 7 Ways to Stop Debt Collection Scam Calls

  • Credit Experts

    It happens, but it should not. We’ve written about it before. Here’s a link:
    Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage

  • Jill

    I recently received a letter in the mail from a collection agency for an account that was from 2002-2003. Should I send a letter stating that the debt is not mine or ignore it completely since it is over the 7 years old that has an effect on my credit report.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You may want to let them know that this debt is too old (assume you’ve checked statutes of limitations) and that you don’t want them to contact you again. At least then they know you know your rights.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    When you say client, are you an attorney?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Judgments can often accrue interest and fees. I can’t say for certain whether their accounting is correct – you’ll probably need to talk with a consumer law attorney to find out for sure. You could also try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Amber

    My federal tax refund was just taken to pay towards student loans. i have not recieved anything about this being reopened and sent to collections. what can i do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Under federal law, you must be given advance notice of the tax refund offset. If you do not believe you received this I suggest you contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But the bigger issue is that you need to try to get your student loans out of default so this doesn’t happen every year. We wrote more about that in this article: My Social Security Income Is Being Zapped for Student Loans!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Robin – I don’t know. It’s hard to tell what happened or even tell if their demands were legal in the first place based on what you are saying. You may want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or talk with a consumer law attorney.

  • sue

    My husband got a call from his sister, apparently he re received a letter from County Court House a Civil Letter. They did not have to sign for it. First, it was sent to neighbor next go his sisters house (odd) then later that week his sisters house (odd). He has not used his sisters address in about 4-5years. He has changed address through post office 3 times since, last move was even out of state. His sister thinks he’s being sued because that’s what those letters look like. But she didn’t have to sign for it, which baffles me. We are waiting for her to mail us the letter, I’m concerned.

  • Jessica

    I have a $22,000 hospital bill (originally $18,000) that I just discovered when I saw it on my credit report. I didn’t know about this bill because the hospital has been sending the bills to my old address for 2 years, so I never even got a chance to pay it or discuss a payment plan. Also, the collections agency that currently has the debt isn’t licensed to practice in the state I live in. Is there any way to get the hospital to pull it from collections so I can pay them directly?

    • Credit Experts

      That’s a question for the hospital to answer. Have you asked?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    First, find out if the statute of limitations has expired on this debt. If so you can send the collector a certified letter stating that the debt is too old, and insist they stop trying to collect. As for your credit reports, you’ve got two issues here. One is that the amount reported is wrong. The second is that this collection account may have or should very shortly reach the time period where it can’t be reported anymore. (Collection accounts may be reported for 7 years plus 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor.) So it sounds like you have two reasons to dispute it. This article explains how to file a credit report dispute:
    A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Credit Experts

    To the best of our knowledge, there are not laws against this. The collection agency in question may have policies or procedures governing what to do in a situation such as the one you described.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Generally not unless they have a judgment or it’s some kind of federal debt. Consult a consumer law attorney or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    My pleasure.

  • Ice78

    I took out a cash Advance in 2005 and i’m just getting a notice in the mail say they are suing me in court is their anything they can do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Check your state statute of limitations. In most states, if you haven’t made payments in 9 years the debt is outside the statute of limitations. If the debt is too old. you can go to court and raise the statute of limitations as a defense. We’ve written more about that in this article: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • tabmor

    Can a process server threaten to sue your employer if they do noyt set up a meeting so that they can serve you papers? I have not avoided them at all, as far as I know they have not tried to reach me outside of work.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Absolutely not. It sounds like a scam. Are you sure you are dealing with a legitimate company? 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

      • Tab morley

        Yes they are a legitimate process server here in Helena Montana. They told her that she was interfering in legal matters and could potentially face charges if she didn’t coordinate the meeting. Do you know who I would report this to?

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Perhaps they know something I don’t. You didn’t mention what type of debt this is for, and I am not an attorney so perhaps there is something I am not aware of behind their threats. Two suggestions: first, you can call your state attorney general’s office. The other option is to talk with a consumer law attorney. Visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates to find one in your area.

  • karen

    iwent to help my daugher get a car. while i was on the road working the car salesman told my daughter to sign my name on the loan. is this legal. they repossed the car and are trying to make me pay the difference in what the car was sold for. can they do this legally?

    • Credit Experts

      No, but because your daughter signed (forged) your name on the loan, she could be criminally charged if you point out that you did not sign the loan documents (and it sounds as if perhaps you would have if you could have). So you are in a very tricky situation. You may want to consult a lawyer for advice.

  • Jeanette

    If I paid monthly on a loan for a vehicle for five years without missing a payment before I could no longer pay the loan and then they sold the item at auction for a total that the original item cost, can they still sue me for interest? And this is not from the original lender but from a debt collection lawyer. I was unemployed when I went to court and the mediator actually harassed me into agreeing to pay once I was re-employed and for more than the debt collector had asked for. I feel like I was harassed and was in tears by the time I went before the judge to agree that I owed the debt which I didn’t feel I did because they had gotten what the item had been originally financed for.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jeanette – In most states, collectors are allowed to add interest and collection costs to debts. How much is hard to nail down because it depends on the contract and state law. I don’t know what the outstanding balance is or what other debts you have, but if it is going to be difficult for you to repay this I suggest you talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. Another option may be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I am not sure if there is much they can do since this went through the court system, but at least you can go on record.

  • betty

    can a debt collection take me to small claims court on a payday loan that my husband took out and defaulted onit and I didn’t sign any papers and the payday loan is not in my name

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Did you get anything in writing from them stating they wouldn’t proceed with the court case if you made payments? If so then I would say it’s definitely worth pursuing – and may be anyway. It’s hard to say if the specific charges are legal. In most states, interest and fees can be charged on judgments though that’s not to say they always get it right. Unfortunately, though, to try to challenge this you will either need to enlist the help of a consumer law attorney or at least file a complaint with the CFPB. Are you certain you are paying enough to pay it off in three to five years or less? If not, you may want to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. Judgments can often be wiped out in bankruptcy. My fear is you are going to keep paying and paying on this and still owe them a lot of money…It could be good to get a second opinion.

    • MaxZoey1

      I didn’t get anything in writing. I do have a payment agreement from them dated from December 17th, and receipts showing that I’ve been paying. The hearing date was December 23rd. The lady I talked to said that the lawsuit would stay with the court but no judgment would be entered unless I failed to make a payment. I should have got it in writing these people are sharks. I called the courthouse and confirmed what I saw on my credit report but the amounts are different and the clerk said that no payments are showing up for the judgment.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Ugh. It may still be worth talking with a consumer law attorney and definitely worth filing a complaint.

  • Dawn Koris

    A relative of mine was involved in a condominium foreclosure case where the lawyer representing the plaintiff informed the judge (15 months into the case) that he had hired his own lawyer because of an “irregularity” in the lien. It turns out there was never a lien on the property, and that someone had taken a lien on a different property and altered it by hand to make it look like it was on the property in foreclosure before filing the foreclosure lawsuit. What are my legal options?

    • Credit Experts

      We are not lawyers, and we can’t give you legal advice (also state laws can vary). Our suggestion is to contact a real estate lawyer.

      • Dawn Koris

        Thanks. We’ll start with the prosecutor’s office and the U.S. Justice Department, then we’ll move on to a real estate lawyer. I’ve never been to law school, but I imagine it’s a crime in any jurisdiction to file altered legal documents in a foreclosure case.

    • Geraldine Sandusky

      That sounds like a criminal matter. This website won’t give legal advice. You should call the police.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Have you requested an updated copy of your credit report to see what is actually listed now? That should be your next step. It’s hard to say without knowing what they changed.

  • Nicole

    I have debt. I know this. I don’t have a job right now so I can’t pay it off. There is a creditor who calls me constantly. They call family members. They call distant family members. I expect this. However, I draw a line when they try to leave a message with my eleven year old niece, who is in my care. They were so incredibly rude to her that she’s practically in tears. What can I do about this?

  • Chaunel

    I am a little confused on what to do, I’m wondering if anyone here can help me, I unfortunately had a life threatening injury back in 2012 where I had emergency surgery and within a 5 month time frame, my insurance cancelled. 3 years later, this past sunday night i received a knock on my door at 8:30 at night from a very sweet gentlemen who served me with a paper from a debt collector (he was not mean at all) however this paper is for the bill of surgery they told me I had 14 days to contact them and pay 14k or I would go to jail and or a prison sentence. Is this legal? (NO BASHING) I’m not familiar with laws. Do I have to contact him? I had no idea until 3 years later this bill was due. There is a case number but no judge signature or anything else?

    • Credit Experts

      Chaunel —
      Ordinarily you would be served with papers from a court and given a court date. There are no debtors’ prisons anymore. Here’s a resource that may be useful.

      The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

      You also may want to consider calling a consumer law attorney. If you are having trouble finding an attorney we suggest you use the search function on the websites of the National Association of Consumer Advocates or the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

  • Lou Feher

    Can a credit card company use a local sheriff in my area
    to collect a credit card debt in NY State?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t have a simple answer for you. You may want to try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Mary – I’m confused by the dates you are describing. A church off account remains on your credit report for seven years from the date it was charged-off. The date the account was opened isn’t relevant as far as how long it can be reported. However, since you say you haven’t heard a word from them in over six years it sounds like you stop paying six years ago. Were they not reported earlier? Something isn’t making sense here…

  • Gerri Detweiler

    That’s bizarre. I’d suggest you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Will you let us know what they say?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It sounds like a possible scam to me. Process servers don’t normally warn consumers in advance that they are coming. And ten year old debts are probably outside the statute of limitations. Read: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer and proceed with caution.

  • Jorge

    I get constant ph.calls even after I already imformed them I’m not the person they are trying to reach..I now get ph calls from an investigator.. I’m a truck driver and work different hours and get awaken by theses calls.. What can I do? Can I su

  • izbeth Garcia

    hi i took out a loan for 7500 against my vehicle wich was worth at the time 30,000. after signing and handing over my title i was given a document were it stated i would be paying 23,000 for a 7500 i told the represenative i no longer wanted the loan he said i had no choice as penalties would be made against me. i was charged almost a 300% interest is this legal in california? they failed to credit my first two payments wich allowed them to add more late fees and extra charges. I default i already had money issues and they trapped me on a 613.24 monthly payment. my vehicle was reposed and was denied any access to my property they sold and repossed my vehicle out side of california is this legal? they made false acusations against me with my references claiming i was being investigated for fraud please help. they sold my vehicle accorfing to them for 13000 wich its ridiculous they will not provide me any documents as to how much it sold for. i spoke to the manager last week and he said they have the right to accuse me of fraud .i have this call recorded

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Talk with a consumer law attorney. If they acted illegally you may be able to sue them for damages. You should be able to get a free consultation.

  • Paul Abrams

    Just don’t do anything and see what happens. Any news a year later? What did you do? What did they do?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. They have an attorney locator function on the site. Find one close to where you live and request a consultation. They should be able to help you figure out if you have a case here.

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