Managing Debt

8 Things Debt Collectors Won’t Tell You

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It should come as no surprise that if you’ve fallen behind on your bills, you may be hearing from debt collectors. If they do call, you will almost certainly hear that you need to pay them and that you need to do so immediately. But there are a number of things that they aren’t likely to tell you, and knowing these things can make all the difference in resolving your debts.

1. Some of Their Threats Have No Teeth

If you can’t pay the collector the amount he is demanding, or refuse to give your bank account or debit card number to make the payment, the debt collector may threaten to “put you down for ‘refusal to pay.'” But that’s “a meaningless phrase in the debt collection world,” says founder Charles Phelan, who coaches consumers trying to settle debts. He elaborates:

When a collector says, “We are going to inform your creditor that you are refusing to pay this bill!” they are just using reverse psychology. Your creditor has already figured out that you aren’t paying the bill, or they would not have sent your account to a collection agency in the first place!

Another example? Bogus deadlines. Says Phelan, “Collectors will always try to create a false sense of urgency by imposing a series of deadlines, after which ‘this deal will no longer be available.’ The reality is that settlement or workout offers tend to improve over the course of a typical 3-month collection assignment (i.e., in a non-legal collection scenario).”

2. They Have to Stop Bugging You at Work if You Tell Them To

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is very clear on this point. Once you tell a debt collector your employer doesn’t allow you to talk with her while you are at work, she must stop calling you there. Yet in its 2011 Annual Report to Congress about Fair Debt Collection Practices Act complaints, the Federal Trade Commission noted that in 2010 it received 17,008 complaints related to debt collection calls to consumers at work, up from 11,991 complaints the year before. “By continuing to contact consumers at work under these circumstances, debt collectors may put them in jeopardy of losing their jobs,” notes the FTC.

3. They Can’t Blab About Your Debts to Others

Debt collectors are generally only allowed to discuss your debt with you, a cosigner, your spouse, or your attorney. They cannot discuss your debt with neighbors, relatives who aren’t obligated to pay the debt, or coworkers. In fact, under the FDCPA, they are generally only allowed to contact third parties to locate you, and once they have found you, contact with third parties must stop. Sukhman Dhami of the consumer law firm Dhami Law Firm, P.C., explains:

We call these ‘third party disclosures’, a violation of Section 1692c(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and they are exceptionally common, particularly when the debt collector leaves a message on a public answering machine. These public answering machine violations are called “Foti” violations after the landmark case Foti v. NCO Financial Systems, 2005.

If a debt collector leaves a message for you on any conventional answering machine or any shared/open access voicemail system, they are likely to violate the third party disclosure restrictions per Foti, so save any machine message and/or voicemail which a debt collector leaves for you!

He goes on to warn, “If a debt collector contacts third parties, we want to know about it, because chances are that the collector violated one or more provisions of the FDCPA.”

4. Your Debt May be too Old for Me to do Anything About It

“Stale debt is not collectible,” advises Atlanta bankruptcy attorney Jonathan Ginsburg. “Every State has a statute of limitations that make debt of a certain age not collectible. Debt collectors are not currently obligated to advise you that they cannot sue you or legally ding your credit report if you refuse to pay stale debt.”

In most states, the statute of limitations runs four to six years from the date you last made a payment. And that’s the catch. “In some states, a voluntary payment on a stale debt can revive the debt and make it legally collectible,” Ginsberg warns. But don’t be surprised if you hear about a very old debt. “Stale (or zombie) debt is big business,” he adds.

“Seniors are constantly targeted for old debts,” believes Alex Viecco of the debt negotiation firm New Era Debt Solutions. Viecco says they’re seeing a trend where debts that were the result of identity theft are, “coming back around for consumers. They certainly do not remember it and suddenly (collectors) act as if it was theirs.” He says his firm also hears from clients who complain about old medical debts that should have been paid by the insurance company but weren’t and resurface years later.

“Never admit to any debt without first getting more details,” recommends Viecco. At a minimum, you want to establish that the debt is legitimate, you owe it, the collector on the other end of the phone isn’t a scammer, and whether the statute of limitations has expired.

At the same time, don’t assume that just because a debt is older it can’t be collected, or that it can’t affect your credit reports.  “There are a handful of states that do require the collector to tell the consumer that they cannot be sued,” says Mark Schiffman, director public affairs for ACA International. “While it is true that every state has a statute of limitations, which varies by state and by debt type, and that a collector may not sue or threaten to sue a consumer, the collector may still seek to collect the debt from the consumer so long as it is within the guidelines of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.” He also notes that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, collection accounts may be reported for seven years.

5. Debt Collectors are Under Pressure to Collect, Just Like You are to Pay

Collectors “work on sliding scale commissions and the quicker they get someone’s money, the higher the commission,” says Philadelphia debt collector abuse lawyer Michael Forbes. “If they don’t get your money within a fixed period of time, your account will be sent back to the creditor.”

So while collectors may pressure you to pay right away, staving them off a bit might work in your favor if you can’t afford to pay the full amount you owe. “Collectors will generally not share that they may take a lower settlement offer at the end of the month in order to meet a quota, or nearer the end of the assignment contract when the creditor is going to pull the account back,” says Michael Bovee, founder of the Consumer Recovery Network. He explains that most assignment collection accounts (where creditors assign debts to collection agencies rather than selling them) stay with collectors for 90 days. Any accounts that are not collected at that point may go back to creditors, usually to be placed with another collection firm.

And while collectors may insist that you pay the full balance you owe over time, they may actually prefer to get a smaller, lump-sum payment, says Phelan. Why? “They get paid commissions much faster that way!”

6. If They Really Want to Play Hardball, They Will Have to Sue You

If you owe unsecured debt such as credit card debt, collectors must typically sue you before they can go after your property, including money in your bank accounts, or try to garnish your wages. But threatening to take such actions before they have sued you and won a judgment may be illegal. Even threatening to sue you to collect a debt may be illegal if the collector has no intention of doing so.

The FTC reports that in 2010, just over a quarter of all FDCPA complaints reported that third-party collectors falsely threatened a lawsuit or some other action that they could not or did not intend to take. In addition, 18.6% of FDCPA complaints alleged that such collectors falsely threatened arrest or seizure of property. No doubt some of these complaints involved overseas payday loan collection scammers. Still, some involved calls from collectors in the U.S. trying to collect legitimate debts.

“Debt collectors use applied psychology to persuade and threaten consumers to pay debt,” Ginsberg explains. “Often this psychology involves veiled threats of criminal action or litigation when these options are not available.”

7. Paying Off This Debt Won’t Help Your Credit Ratings

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a collection account will remain on your credit reports for seven years and six months from the date you fell behind with the original creditor. Collectors may make it sound like paying off collections account will improve your credit, by telling you that they will update your credit report to “paid in full” status. But this probably won’t help your credit scores. Collection accounts are negative, regardless of whether they are paid or not.

In an an article titled “Will Paying a Collection Improve My Credit Score,”’s credit scoring expert Tom Quinn wrote:

The fact that a collection account is on your credit report (regardless of balance) is, in and of itself, predictive of future risk, as research shows that consumers with collection accounts on their credit report are less likely to pay as agreed in the future than consumers with no credit report blemishes. 

On the other hand, paying the collection account may stop the creditor or collector from suing you, and a judgment on your credit report could hurt your credit report even more. Additionally, some mortgage lenders may require you to pay or settle collection accounts before giving you a loan.

8. You Probably Don’t Have to Pay Your Deceased Relative’s Debt

“Collecting debts of the deceased is a growing and lucrative business. Creepy, huh?” says Mary Reed, the co-author of more than twenty legal and financial books (including the book she coauthored with the author of this article, Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights.) But generally, she points out, you aren’t responsible for the debts of relatives who died unless you were a cosigner, or the debt belonged to your spouse who died and you live in a community property state. Creditors or collectors may try to collect from the estate, if there is one. If the person left nothing, however, then they may simply be out of luck. Though they are supposed to tell you that you don’t have to pay the debt, they may conveniently leave that out or gloss over it.

If you’re concerned about how your debt could be impacting your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. If you’d like to monitor your credit more regularly,’s free Credit Report Card provides you with an easy to understand breakdown of the information in your credit report using letter grades, along with two free credit scores that are updated monthly.

More Resources on Managing Debt Collectors:

Image: ConvenienceStoreGourmet, via Flickr

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  • will

    What happens if a collection agency didnt validate the debt? I had retained a lawyer to fight the collection agency, they settled out of court paying me a settlement, and state that they no longer hold the loan and it was given back to the original creditor, but they haven’t removed the item from the credit agencies/credit report. The dates on the collection on my credit report were inaccurate. Do they have to remove this from my credit report since they no longer carry the loan?

    Thanks for any and all insight/advice.


  • Eddie

    write a letter of dispute and send it to the credit agency…also get your free credit reports and see if they did an inquiry on your credit and ask for that to be removed to.

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  • James mobley

    If a debt collector has only left voice mail on your phone and has not provided a statement in the mail concerning the debt but willing to fax the info, which is better from the debtors stand point,a fax or the mail Before doing any transactions..

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Do not accept a fax as a substitute for written confirmation of the debt. Written confirmation is required by law. If they did not send it their are either breaking the law or a scammer.

      • James mobley

        Thanks so much that’s helpful to know, by the way the company is bay area credit,I looked them up but got vague or little info, I did discover that they are not b.b.b. Accredited, would u know if they are legit?

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Offhand, no I don’t. I’d suggest you call your state attorney general’s office as a start to find out if they are licensed to do business in your state.

  • SVM

    I have been paying monthly to this firm. I just received a letter asking for full payment and when I called to ask they informed me that it is a new debt. The original creditor pulled it and now they have reopened it as a new account. They also mailed this to my work address not my home were they had a sheriff serve me notice the first time. I use my home address on the money orders that are sent.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry I am not sure I understand exactly what happened. Are you dealing with a legitimate collection agency here? Have you researched to find out if they are licensed and registered in your state (if that is required)?

  • http://laweoffice tara

    i got call from lawyer office saying you do not want go court do you . will when last amount my unemplyed and i am try get ssd how can i pay you and what a judegment

  • Help

    I had a collection agency call me would not give me the name of the company. I had two calls from them both numbers i googled and came back as a technology company. When I called one number I asked for the fax as I wanted to send they a fax from the FTC to stop calling they asked for my name and I said I did not have to disclose that to them and they refused to give me the fax#. And hung up on me. They have also called my mother and daughter. The original debit has been written off buy the company. I did have a complete with the attorney generals office.

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  • Rayne

    Well, I have a debt (auto loan) that defaulted several years ago during a long stretch of unemployment and eventually resulted in garnishment, beginning in 2011. For whatever reason, the creditor was very lax in renewing the 60-day garnishments (per WA state law), and the interest has accrued to such an extent that I believe it is impossible for this debt to ever truly be paid off. Fast forward to last year, when this company suddenly began texting me for ‘settlement’ offers, usually every 2 months or so. The terms keep changing (of course), and now — as my family is on the verge of moving to a new rental house — I get a text saying, and I quote “I need to speak with you about possible changes that may affect your ability to pay for the new rental.” Excuse me? I’ve survived the intermittent garnishment just fine…however cautiously this woman tried to word it, this sounds like a threat to me. Am I correct? Any suggestions as to how I might respond to this?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Rayne – You may want to talk with a consumer law attorney who regularly handles debt collection cases. This may be an illegal threat under the FDCPA. If it is, the collection agency would have to pay your attorney’s fees. (I am not an attorney so please don’t take this as legal advice.)

  • djtwfj

    Hi Gerri, I had an account that I opened probable in 1993, and it went to collections probably in 1999. I struggled financially in that time while I was going full time to school. Once I started working again, I settled most of my accounts but this one because it was the highest debt. This account used to be on my credit report, and now a collection agency is calling my parent’s house to get information about me.

    What are your suggestions?


    • Gerri Detweiler

      Have you made payments on this debt? If not, then I would imagine the statute of limitations has expired. What state do you live in?

  • Cheryl

    Hi, Gerri! I’ve tried to settle an account with a company and they refuse to settle with me for lesser amount that I could afford (settle for 700, balance 1000). I offered to settle for 700, but they refuse and said that I would have a balance still and I’m liable. I also offered to pay between 10 to 50 dollars a month until it’s paid, but they said that they don’t have to accept it. They threatened to take me to small claims court for the total amount. If I send them a cashiers’ check of 500 dollars and a letter of settlement and they send it back, am I still liable for the rest of the balance?

    • Gerri Detweiler


      Unless the amount they say you owe is wrong, they don’t have to accept less than the full payment. Nor are they required to accept monthly payments that you can afford. However, are you certain you are dealing with a legitimate collection agency and not a scammer?

  • Angela

    Hi, I just recieve a call from a private number, I answered it, and they guy said he was a process server, and he had my legal case at his desk, and If I wanted to find about the legal documents I needed to contact this 919-295-6121, I have 4 children, and I thought maybe I was being served for custody or something because i have NEVER been in trouble. I called the number some lady ask was my last 4digits such and such, I said no, you have the wrong person, so she said ok, the called me back saying No, she had the right person, they just had my ref# mixed up, and said I owed on a capitol one credit card from 2007, and I was like maam, I had a credit card back in 2002, the limit was 300, I do not owe 4,000 to captitol one. she then says she is marking this as a refusal to pay, and They will be sueing me, and I sound like a smart lady, do i want to be sued, or make payment arrangements, I said look No im not making arrangements, i dont even know is this is the same credit card from 2002, and No im not paying, then she hung up on me, I called back, she said there was no use for me, they were sueing me, and I want be broke all my life, so i cant run from the law forever??? I was amazed at these people. Im so lost, I have no clue if im being sued, wouldnt they have to serve me? and i never had a credit card open in 2007, maybe 2002 when i was 2o ish, im now 33years old, no credit card is listed on my credit report at all from the 2002 card i had. im so lost. she said this card last payment was made on jan. 2007, which means in 2014 that will not be valid, BUT I NEVER HAD A CARD IN 2007. EVER!!

    • Angela

      I now live in Ga. she states the credit card was 10 years old at first in the inital converstaion, then when she hung up in my face and i called her back after reading online about state statutes, then she said the credit card last payment was made on jan 2007, and the credit card was issue in LA. which is a lie, the card from 2002, i never paid on, its not even on my credit report anymore.

  • Angela

    She states she was from a laywers office, but i cant see lawyer being so rude, hanging up in your face, then telling you ( We will get the money after we garnish your back account, you cant stay broke all your life) the so called process server said ( maam you cant run from the law) when i was asking what in the world was he calling about.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      So glad you didn’t fall for this!

  • Alania

    Hi Gerri!

    Is there any sense in paying a charged off account? I have paid 2 of those off and wondering if it was a bad decision since bad debt is bad debt.

    I currently have 2 accts in collections, not charged off yet. Any sense in paying these off or just wait for them to “fall off?”

    I’m getting married later in the year and wanted to clean upy credit, but it sounds like I shouldn’t worry about old debts since they will not effect my credit in a positive way.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      The risk of not paying a collection account or charged off account is that you could be sued for the debt. If that happens, you’ll have a judgment on your credit reports, which starts a new reporting period. I can’t say whether that really will happen here, but it’s something you should be aware of as a possibility.

  • Dee

    I think I have made a HUGE mistake! Please help with some advice. I had a collection letter sent to my home in January for $1691.00 for Dental Services. Honestly, I thought my insurance had covered most of it and had paid them a lot of money I borrowed from my 401k back then. This was between 2004 and 2005. I got the collection letter and it said I could make payment arrangements because at the time I did not have enough to pay the entire amount within the 35 days. So I went online scheduled monthly payments thinking it would not be placed on my credit. Well it appeared today. It costed me 60 points off my credit score and now I am not going to be eligible for my home loan that I have been trying to get my credit score up for almost two years. I am devastated. I would have had the money to pay in full if I had to when I got my taxes back. But when I made the payment arrangements it didn’t say they would still put it on my credit. So I went on the website and now I see TERMS AND CONDITIONS: It states: that if not paid full within 35 days it will still be placed on my credit and until paid off it will be listed as Paid but they will NOT remove it. Any suggestions? I don’t want to not pay something I owe. I have not heard from this dentist office in 8 years. Please help!

    • Michael

      Dee – Can you post a reply with who the collection company was you made this payment arrangement with online? What was the name of the company on the letter head of the collection mail you received, if different than the company website you were on when setting up payments? When did you make the first collection payment?

      If you can post answers to these questions in a comment reply I may be able to help you with some feedback about your options.

  • Rochelle

    Hi Gerri
    I had an account in collections for a cell phone bill my sister had in my name. I tried to settle with them but they would not delete from my credit report. I since learned this month that the account is off my report and it has not been 7 years. Can this company put it back on my credit report since the account is not paid? I’m afraid to pay now because they might put it back on as a (paid collection).

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Rochelle – I feel like I am missing some information here but I’ll respond as best as I can. If it has been less than 7 years and 180 days since your sister fell behind on the payments leading up to this account being placed for collection then yes it can be reported again during that time frame. However, why did they remove it in the first place? Are they still trying to collect? Has the statute of limitations (which is different than the reporting period) expired on this debt? (If you aren’t sure, what state do you live in?)

  • Dogface

    Hi ~
    I have been contacted by a Collection firm in regards to me defaulting on my home alarm contract… Problem is that I was not contacted by the alarm company regarding the default prior… The contract clearly states that if I am in breach the contract that I will be notified by certified mail prior to default/termination. Second problem is that my alarm is still activated and working as of today… I have sent a dispute letter to the collection company asking for validation of the debtand recieved only partial of the infomation requested… Turns out that my account defaulted because my debit card expired and the automatic payments stopped. Also this company does not provide a monthly statement of acount, so I really had no idea of the nonpayment issue and the fact that my alarm is still activated… Help! how do you suggest I resolve this issue..?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You probably won’t get anywhere with the collection agency. So go directly to the alarm company. Insist they pull the account back from collections. If they refuse, tell them you will be talking with a consumer law attorney about a credit damage lawsuit.

  • Jeff

    Hi Gerri,

    My wife worked out a payment arrangement with a debt collector and they have accepted this payment for the last 6 months. Today the phone calls began and we received a letter saying “This payment is not acceptable”. Can they change mid stream like this or have we established boundaries that indeed the payment is acceptable?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unless you have something in writing, they probably can. Why they would pressure you to make payments you can’t afford it beyond me, but it does happen. The only thing you can do is try to stick to your guns and pay what you can afford – or find a way to come up with more money. But they can always decide to sue. Again, may not make a lot of sense.

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  • Kelly

    Hi Gerri~
    Our family has a lot of medical bills; some of which have been turned over to collections, others still with various hospitals and doctor’s offices. Today I called one of the hospitals to make payment arrangements on a bill of about $400. The hospital refused to make any arrangements at all stating that they could not do so until the $285 bill that was turned over to collections was paid in full. I called the collection company who offered me three choices: pay the bill in full, pay half now, half next month or split the bill into three equal monthly payments. Because I have about $3,500 in outstanding medical bills, I offered to pay $25 or $50 per month and the representative I spoke to refused saying it would take me too long to pay it off. I asked her to please send me something stating that I attempted to make payment arrangements but was denied. She again refused. She started asking questions like “Where do you work?”, “What do you do?”, “Is the kids’ dad working?” And finally she wouldn’t even let me fnish a sentence so I hung up on her. I can’t believe I am willing to pay something each month and am being denied. What should I do? (we’re in Michigan)

    • Michael Bovee

      Kelly – When an unpaid account is sent off to a collection agency by your original creditor or service provider, it is typically done on a contract. This will mean any payment arrangements will have to go through the assignment debt collector. It also means they may refuse payments if what you can afford is too small.

      More often than not, your offer of a smaller payment would be successful if you were working with the medical service provider, or their direct billing agent.

      You do not have to answer the debt collectors questions. As pushy as it sounds like things got, I am glad you hung up.

      I would encourage you to:

      Call the hospital and let them know that payment was refused when you offered what you could afford. Ask if the account will be pulled back at a certain time so that you can work with paying them direct.

      If the account is not going to be pulled back anytime soon, commit to saving up your money until you are in a position to knock down the 285.00.

      It sounds like there are other medical debts out there. You can also look to tackle another debt, and circle back to this one later on.

      Have you put together a comprehensive outline of all of these debts and targeted money from your monthly budget that can applied over time to clear them all? If you would like some help with that, post a follow up comment reply with the balances and status of each debt. I will then have some questions for you to answer, followed by additional feedback.

  • Carole Waterman

    My husband got sick and was out of work for three weeks. I called my credit card company to see if there was anything they could do to help and they said no. I made arrangements to pay the past due monthly fee and current fee on the 3rd and they won’t stop calling. What can I do to stop the calls. This is the first time I have missed a payment.


      Carole – if it’s your first late payment the credit card issuer hasn’t sold the account to a collection agency (that doesn’t usually happen until the account goes 180 days late). This means that it’s the credit card company’s in-house collection department that’s calling and they don’t fall under the same guidelines under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as collection companies — it’s the lender calling, not a collector. The laws under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act do not apply to in-house collections –which are typically the collection departments of banks, retailers, credit card issuers, etc. You can ask them to stop calling until you pay the bill on the 3rd (since that’s what you’ve agreed to), but you can’t make them cease the calls like you can with a third-party collector. What’s probably happening is that you’re in their automated “late” call queue and you’ll remain in the queue until the you pay on the 3rd. Very frustrating knowing that it’s your first ever late payment but if you can get caught up on the 3rd, the calls will stop.

  • Laura

    Hi Gerri, I recently noticed an unpaid debt on my credit report with a debt date of 2013 – however when I called I was informed the account is from 2003 and was closed in 2004. I also received a letter from the collection agency with the amount but no details of the bill, only the original company. I called the phone company (turns out to be a home phone) but could not get specific information – only that the account is so old. I currently reside in TN but the bill is from GA.
    My questions – what are my options:
    1. the collection agency is reporting the bill as a NEW debt – is that legal?
    2. given that it’s past the debt limitation statutes for both states (went to collection in summer 2004), am I obligated to pay this bill?
    3. should I contact the credit report bureau to have the bill remove – especially since the date is INCORRECT?
    4. send a dispute letter to the agency?

    I know this is wordy/long but I wanted to make sure you have all the details.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Laura – Collection accounts can only be reported for 7 years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor leading up to when the account was placed for collection. If this bill was written off in 2004, then it sounds like it should not be on your credit report now. Dispute it. Here’s how:

      if you can’t get it resolved, talk with a consumer law attorney. The collection agency may be breaking the law and you may be entitled to damages.

      And no you don’t have to pay a collection account that is outside the statute of limitations.

  • kimberly

    Me and my boyfriend got took to court over a medical bill. We settled out of court. Never got seen by a judge or nothing. Talked to the lawyer that was there to collect the debt and made arrangements to make 50 dollar payments on a 600 dollar bill. We have got all the check stubs showing where we paid it. They are now sending us letters and calling saying we owe them 7 to 800 dollars for court cost. Can they do that to us when we settled out of court on a certain amount and even signed an agreement saying that’s all we owed?


      Kimberly – this doesn’t sound right. If you’ve already paid the debt according to the signed agreement, and now they’re adding more to it after you’ve paid it off, we’d advise contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If they’re not able to help, then you may want to consult with a consumer law attorney because the collector may be breaking the law under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. TTo find a consumer law attorney in your area, visit

  • need advice

    My sister’s husband died recently. She has been calling creditors trying to get a little relief for the debt owed. One company (Bank of America) tells her she is a cosigner on the card – however she is sure she is not. She asked them for proof. They replied saying there was record of her calling on the account. This is definitely not true. Then they stated they don’t keep records from that far back. Now, the bills are coming to her house in HER name. How can I help her? The sudden death, as I am sure you are aware, has been very hard for her as it is.
    If writing a letter is what you think she needs to do since the people on the phone are not willing to help, what should she say?

    Thank you in advance for your help.


      Has she pulled copies of her credit reports? Before taking the BofA representative’s word for it, the easiest way to tell if she’s a co-signer or joint account holder is to find out how the account is being reported in her credit reports. If she’s an authorized user, she has no legal liability for the account and can simply dispute the account and the bureaus will remove it from her credit reports.

      If she’s listed as a joint account holder or co-signer, it’ll be much more difficult to prove she’s not unless she has some sort of documentation or evidence that says otherwise. This doesn’t mean all is lost, however. If she’s sure she was never on the account (either jointly or as a co-signer), her best bet in fighting it would be to consult with a consumer law attorney. At least with an attorney, they can request evidence to have data for past credit reporting information to be subpoenaed (which would show whether or not the account had always been reported that way or if it was updated after her husband’s death). An attorney would also be able to advise her on whether or not she has a strong enough case against BofA. A good place to start would be the National Association of Consumer Advocates at

      Please do keep us posted and let us know how things turn out.

  • emanuel

    my wife having medical collection in my name I called Kaiser and its my wifes medical collections I got paperwork saying it’s my life what they put it underneath my name in collection now if I get that clear off can they put it back on since is my wife’s collection not mind

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If you dispute the account because it is not yours and you get it removed by disputing it with the credit reporting agencies, then they are not supposed to report it again without first certifying that the information is correct. Keep good records of what’s happened (including the letters stating that it would be removed) and if the problem recurs, talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in credit damage cases.

  • emanuel

    I got medical collections in my name the medical collections are not mine they are my wifes collections I got paperwork from Kaiser saying they are my wifes medical collection now can I take them off my collection credit report and never go back on again or the collection will put them back on my report

  • emanuel

    can my wife Medical collections go on my credit report and I have a wart saying they are my wife collections and not mines can I take them off and never get them back on again by the collection agency

  • jewell

    I had a serious car accident that left me in financial difficulty. I have made an agreement with all of my credit card companies except for 2. one of the companies I pay just the interest with $1.00 coming off of the principle a month and the other keeps hounding me. I was caught up with the one that keeps calling me but they only have a hardship program lasting 1 year so all of those payments were probably for nothing.. Meanwhile I have been unable to use any of my credit cards in over 7 years. Someone told be there was something called the fact act which would not let my credit card company to file anything about being late with my payments. I am told it would be different if I was still able to use the card but since the company cancelled back in 2005 the fact act would apply. Is this true??? Sincerely Jewell

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jewell – You have been given wrong information. Nothing in the FACT Act prevents creditors from reporting late payments that are accurate.

  • jewell

    If you owe money to a company and have paid them on a regular basis for many years, and they canceled your card over 8 years ago but continued to pay and then were unable to pay them on a regular basis or would be late on a regular basis can they affect your credit score or would something called the fact act keep them from being able to report. I do continue to pay them but because of my health situation I will never be on time. Sincerely, Jewell

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jewell – If you can never catch up on this bill then you really need to talk with a bankruptcy attorney to find out whether you need to consider filing.

  • Alex

    Hi Gerri, I have a friend whose mother was a shopaholic with the home shopping network. She is now a “Ward of the State” and in a nursing home. There is no way the mother can pay the amount or anything for that matter. We have written a letter to the credit card company but they just sent a letter saying they want payment in full. Is there any way to not pay this as her daughter doesn’t have the money. Thanks for any insight you can give me to help her.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If her daughter did not cosign she certainly isn’t responsible. And if Mom doesn’t have the financial ability to pay then there may not be much they can do about it. Are they calling the daughter? Has it gone to collections?

  • Britt

    Hi Gerri,

    Just rec’d a letter from a collection agency for $1,700 for an apartment complex I lived in 3 years ago. This is the first correspondence I’ve ever rec’d from them. They told me they tried to contact me at my old address and by phone (the phone they had, I had never heard of) but I NEVER rec’d anything from them. Also the apartment complex never contacted me. Anyhow, I do believe the charges are legit and the company however they are contacing me 3 years later? Can I try and settle for a less amount or what should I do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      First, request written validation of the debt which is your right under federal law. Then go ahead and contact the apartment complex. This is a substantial amount of money and you want to verify what happened. You can then decide whether to pay it in full or try to settle it, depending on what you learn and whether you have the money to pay it off. But if you discover that the bill was not legitimate in the first place you may need to talk with a consumer law attorney.

  • Lee

    Hi Gerri,
    I had a debt collector call and yell at me about a payday loan from ten years ago. I asked them to give me the debt information in writing but they refused. I offered to give my address but they wanted me to agree first that I owed the debt and that they would send me the information in writing once I agreed on the debt and on a settlement. I said they had to send it to me in writing before I could agree to anything. She screamed at me that she was putting it down as a refusal and hang up on me. Does this “refusal” mean I’m being sued?

    Thank you,

    • Gerri Detweiler

      They are acting illegally. By law they must send you written confirmation of the debt. That’s not optional and you aren’t required to agree to pay the debt in order to get that information. There’s a good chance they aren’t legit, but just to be on the safe side, keep notes of any conversations you have with them. If the calls persist – and if you can’t find out who they are – report them to your state attorney general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Consuela Lasley

    Years ago trying to reestablish credit got a credit card that gave me maybe fifth dollars but charged me four hundred was paying lost job now trying to garnish me for over a thousand dollar is there any thing I can do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Consuela – This sounds like one of the “fee harvester” credit cards that were pretty much outlawed by the Credit CARD Act. They were often predatory cards that got a lot of consumers like yourself into trouble.

      You mention that they are trying to garnish your wages. To do so, that means they must have obtained a court judgment against you. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to read this article: Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?

      If, on the other hand, they don’t already have a judgment against you then they are likely trying to initiate a lawsuit against you. In that case, you’ll want to read these articles: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

      We hope they help!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Consuela –

      It is possible the debt has grown due to interest and fees. I can’t say for sure whether it’s legitimate or not since it depends on the contract. Will they let you settle it for less than the full balance? If not, you may need to talk with a bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are for dealing with the garnishment.

  • julian

    I called this debt collector and the first agent I spoke to said they would take a prepaid visa and when I called to give them the number and get a installment plan ..the manager said that I their client had said the only way was for me to put in a checking account to pay it back..and when I said I could not do that he said than he would make sure that things went worst quickly for us and wished us good luck…we want to pay we dont have the money before June …what can I do he was very rude

    Thank you

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Stick to your guns. Giving a debt collector access to your bank account is very risky. A prepaid card is safer but keep in mind you may not have a record of your payments. Try sending them a certified letter stating what you are able to pay and how you are willing to pay. You could also consider opening another account just for the purpose of paying this debt, if you can find an account that won’t charge you hefty fees. We wrote more about this topic in this article: The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I wouldn’t recommend you pay that way either. There’s no reason they shouldn’t take a bank certified check or money order. Are you sure they are legitimate and this debt is legitimate?

  • Toya

    How do you settle a debt when the company that is refusing payments. I went through a company to get a small loan to pay for a down payment on my car. I wrote them a check to pay them back and unfortunately it bounced do a dispute I am in with my bank (currently). I immediately contacted the comapny and explained the issues I was having with my bank and that I would need to make payments on the loan. Unfortunately they declined my payments and although I have not given up on trying to make payments with this company, they are refusing my payments and marking my account as “refusing to pay” The last phone call I made to them I was threatened, bullied and belittled by their agent over the phone and told that “I needed to stop calling because I was wasting my time and theirs” I am unsure how to handle this matter. I take full responsibilty for the debt, but all the going back and forth is still not getting the debt paid. They want the payment in full and I honsetly do not have it. I just need to know what my options are at this point? I am so desperate for answer that I have even lingered with the idea of filing bankruptcy just so these people can get there money in full since they are refusing my payment…

    • Deanna Templeton

      Toya – When you say they’ve refused payment, have you sent them money and they’ve returned the checks? Unfortunately, if you defaulted on the original terms of the loan, collectors aren’t legally obligated to accept or agree to payment plans or what you can afford to pay them.

      Can you share a little more information about the debt or the total amount of the debt? One option you might want to consider is taking whatever amount you can afford to pay them each month and setting it aside until you have a large enough payment to negotiate a settlement with them.

      Bankruptcy is an option but we’d strongly urge you to speak with a bankruptcy attorney to make sure it’s the right fit for your financial situation. I’d hate for you to file bankruptcy because of one debt if you’re able to negotiate and work through it.

      Dealing with a collection can be nerve-wracking and stressful, but thankfully offers several resources that I think will help explain your options and give you a better understanding of the process:
      The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector
      Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
      What to Do When a Debt Collector Demands a Full Payment

  • Michael

    Hello, I’m in desperate need of some assistance regarding an issue I’m having. In 2011 I fell behind on 6 or 7 CC accounts 30 days. I called each of them and negotiated payment plans. I made all payments on time and paid all accounts off using a personal loan in April 2013. I applied for a new account in May and was denied due to derogatory credit, so I ran an updated report and to my dismay realized 1 account, Sears MBNA, had reported my account as a collection in May. All my other accounts show paid closed. My credit was spotless and now is ruined after years of hard work. I have 5 various credit reports between that time that show my account with them on time with no past due amounts. They all show one 30 day late in Mar 2011 and on time since. No indication of collection ever on any credit report or from Sears. Was not getting statements since I was on a payment plan and on paper statements which required login, but all emails from them each moth show on time payment made and all phone calls to their system said payment made before due date. Sears will not fix this and is saying even though I was on time with the arrangement they offered my account was in collections the whole time, which is why they’re reporting me as a collection for may after the debt was fully paid per the agreement. The credit agencies have made matters worse by now making it show I’m delinquent in April and moving the Collection to April instead of May. Need help! Please let me know what I can do about this? Thanks, Mike

  • bob

    I have charge offs for credit cards that have not been paid on since 2007. Is there a way to get them off my credit report without costing a lot of money. I am on SSDI and do not have much to spare

    • Credit Experts

      Hi Bob – Charge-offs remain in your credit reports for 7 years and there’s no way to have them removed if they’re accurate.

      Typically you wouldn’t pay a charge-off, you’d pay the collection that resulted from a charge-off.

      Paying a collection won’t remove it from your credit report either, but it will keep it from doing more damage if the collector decides to sue. Collection accounts will remain in your credit reports for 7 years from the date the account originally went delinquent.

      Ideally, the best way to handle a collection is to try and negotiate a settlement for less than you owe in order to resolve the debt. For tips and advice on how to handle collections (and negotiate settlements), these resources will help:

      The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector
      Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit


    First Street Dental is going to sue me they say can they when they gave me back all my money, took off $ 1,700 for pain and $ 500 HUNDRED more to close my bill ,,they did bad work on my mouth I hate the work that was done ,I still hurt every day .gave back money twice now HOW CAN THEY SUE ME

    • Credit Experts

      Norma – It’s really hard to say and would depend on the dentist office billing records. From the sounds of it, there’s a remaining balance and they didn’t actually refund/credit the entire procedure. If they’re attempting to sue for non-payment, we strongly urge you to read: Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

      You may also want to consult with a consumer law attorney to see if you have grounds for a counter-suit. To find a consumer law attorney in your area, visit

  • veteran1992

    Hi Gerri how come a collection company can put a collection that is already on your credit report from the original debter on your report again under another account number. Then if it gets paid that account number plus the original one is still on your report creating a double negative.Even if it doesn’t get paid to the first collection company and it gets sold to a second one or third one they do the same and before you know it you have three or four of the same account on your report just under different account numbers from different collection agent

    • Credit Experts

      It’s one of the reasons why collections end up causing so much damage. Ignoring a collection, or not addressing it in the hopes that it’ll eventually fall off your credit report, often causes it to spiral into several collections — causing even more damage in the process.

      To get answers to all of your questions on duplicate collections, Gerri covers this topic in a lot more detail here:
      Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage

  • Olga Keg

    I recently received a call from collection agency’s law department. The representative was extremely rude. I though that he finished with his sentence and when I made my reply the representative went ballistic:” You should not interrupt some one who is speaking! You should let that person to finish the senescence first!” Then he refused my proposed offer. I own them about $3,700 and I offered them to pay 2k in $100 per month, or to pay 1,500 in 3 $500 installments, he said he will talk to his “manager.” Next thing that happen the “manager” got on the phone he said that he appreciates my offer, however if I am willing to pay 500 per months I definitely have funds to pay the entire amount. So he said that I either pay 3.7 in $100 per month, or I pay 2,300 right away, or 2,300 in 3 payments. On one hand I understand that he does not believe me, but on the other I honestly do not have such money and the only reason why I can pay 500 per month is because my boy friend is willing to help me. So he declined my offer and said, “good luck mam, will see you in court.”
    Few days ago, the very same rude representative had suggested that if I do not pay they will proceed with the law suit and the law suit settlement will stay on my record for 20 years. So if I want to keep my credit history in better condition I better settle with them…

  • Amber

    my husband and I recently found when reviewing our credit report for the first time That there was an over $8,000 collection put out for us from an apartment we lived in over 5 years ago :( we talked to the collection agency and asked how this could possibly be so high?! especially because we left the place mostly clean, other than a couch that my mother was supposed to pick up but never got around to it :( we did leave 1 month earlier than our lease was up, which we know was wrong but things were tough back then and money wasn’t as fluent as we would have like it to be :( there response was that they “had to replace” all of the appliances and washer and dryer (all of which worked perfectly well when we were there) as well as the floors (which needed replacing when we moved in) “remove trash” and $900 charge for removing the furniture..oh and of course the last month rent we didn’t pay and some other fees for breaking the lease :( anyway!! it’s been 5 years already and we didn’t even know about it. The collection company said we’re not allowed to speak to the apartment people, and that there is nothing we can’t dispute it any longer and that even though they weren’t telling the truth :( there’s nothing we can do to make it go away other than paying the full debt :( but my husband noticed that on our credit report it says that the record will remove itself in 2 years? but I’m concerned that if we ignore them we will get sued :( and if we get sued will it still go away in 2 years? or just start all over again :(.

    • Credit Experts

      Amber – your best bet is to try and negotiate a settlement to clear the debt. Otherwise, you’re right — it could eventually become a lawsuit and result in a judgement, which would stain your credit reports for another 7 years. Having said that, collectors can’t arbitrarily charge outrageous fees on top of the original debt, and by law, they have to validate the debt and send you confirmation of the charges but only if you request them to (which you should absolutely do.) To get you started, here are several great resources we strongly encourage you to review so that you understand your rights, how collections impact your credit, and also how best to address/resolve the collection:

      Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
      Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What To Do
      The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit

  • Credit Experts

    “By law if I am making attempt, however small, can they do that?” — Unfortunately, they can. This is because collectors are not legally obligated to accept payments based on what the borrower/patient is comfortably able to afford. However, if you made payment arrangements, they usually stick to those agreements –did you get the negotiated payment agreement in writing, by chance?

    Dealing with medical collections — or any collection for that matter — is nerve-wracking but does offer several resources. To help you understand your rights, and how best to handle collections, the following resources should help:

    Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly
    What to Do When a Debt Collector Demands Full Payment
    Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What To Do
    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    Jay – By law, you have 30 days to respond to a collection notice and request the collector validate the debt, but this doesn’t stop the account from being reported in your credit report. Having said this, you also have the right to dispute the collection (especially, if the doesn’t belong to you or you don’t agree with the debt or the amount). For more on how to deal with collectors, your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and steps to take to dispute the debt, the following resources will help:

    9 Ways to Turn the Tables On Debt Collectors
    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
    What to Do If a Debt Collector Calls
    How to Write an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

  • Credit Experts

    AE – you need to get whatever you agree to in writing. When you agreed to making payment arrangments on the debt, the clock restarted with the most recent payment. For help with dealing with collectors, and how best to handle collections, we urge you to read through the following resources so that you know your rights and the best steps to take going forward in your negotiations with this collector:

    The First Thing You Must Do Before Paying Off Debt
    What to Do If a Debt Collector Calls
    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit
    9 Ways to Turn the Tables On Debt Collectors

  • Shae

    Hi Gerri, A few months ago I noticed a debt in collections on my credit report. I went through hell and high water to find out what it was from.. Turns out it was from a fitness center contract I had almost 10 years ago .. Beats me how it’s still on my credit because I had closed the account when I moved from the area.. I disputed the item and one day I got an email saying my results were in so I called and checked with the representative from experian and was told that it wasn’t removed .. So I called and made payment arrangements with the collection agency .. A few days later the debt was removed off of my credit report.. I’m a little puzzled at what to do now because I’m scared to call the collection agency and ask if they did it or did or just assume experian removed it because they found no evidence connecting me with this debt.. Please help need some advice on the next steps to take..

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Shae – If you made no payments on this debt for ten years it should absolutely not be on your credit reports at this late date. And it’s very likely outside the statute of limitations so you do not want to make payments on it or you may start that period all over again. Have you made any payments yet? Have you checked your other two credit reports – Equifax and Trans Union?

  • dgamboa

    i have a question. What if its a dental bill that im getting harassed and thretend over and im concerned when i started sending payments i was told it wasnt good enough, then when i told him that somebody from the collection place has accepted my payments he told me that they wouldnt of done that argued with me then hung up the phone, i make less then $600 a month with 3 kids on welfare, i sent them what i could. they had me in tears i was literaly tramatized by the phone call, what can i do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry to hear what you’re going through. The collection agency isn’t required to accept what you can afford, but at the same time, they aren’t allowed to harass consumers. (The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives examples of harassment, such as threatening to take action they can’t or don’t intend to take.)

      I’d suggest you continue paying what you can. Keep a good record of your payments, including copies of cancelled checks so you have proof they were received.

      If the same person calls again, ask politely to speak to their supervisor. If they refuse to let you do that, or you can’t get someone helpful on the phone, consider filing a written complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

      One more thing, though, if this bill is very large making small payments may mean it never gets paid off. Collection agencies can usually add interest to accounts in collections so you may find yourself paying and paying and making no progress on the debt itself.

      You may want to instead consumer talking with a bankruptcy attorney about whether it makes sense to file, or to find out what your legal rights are if you stop paying all together.

      Hang in there.

  • Miss Anna

    Hello Gerri, thank you so much for the service you are offering here. We are all grateful for your time and expertise! My question is this: I had to file bankruptcy back in 2008. When I pulled my credit report early this year for the first time since then, one of my creditors that was included in the bankruptcy had just reported me in 2012. Can creditors choose when to report you like that? Can I have that removed or does the 7 yr waiting period start from 2012. Again, thank you kindly, Miss Anna

    • Gerri Detweiler


      When you say they reported you, what exactly did they report? If the account was charged off before or with the bankruptcy, they can report that for 7 years from the date it was charged off. If there is a notation “included in bankruptcy” that can be reported for seven years from the date you filed. Is that what they are reporting – or something else?

      And thanks for the kind words! So glad we can help you.

  • Rob

    I just offered to pay £425 of my £516 debt and the guy on the phone refused to accept it…. what does this mean?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Rob – I am afraid I don’t know how settling debts works in England. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  • Credit Experts

    Dale — first you need to make sure the pay day loan collection is legit and not a scam — Gerri covers this in the following articles:

    Beware of Fake Payday Loan Debt Collection Scam

    If the collection is valid, and you owe it, there are steps you can take to validate the debt and negotiate a settlement and you’ll want to get everything in writing and document the process. The following resources will help explain your rights and walk you through how to negotiate with the collector:

    Infographic: What to do if a Debt Collector Calls

    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

    Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What To Do

    • Christopher Moser

      I was getting calls from a “law firm” about a payday loan I had apparently received in October 2010. The numbers that showed up on my caller ID were weird (like 000-000-0000) and sometimes there were real numbers. Type the number from your caller ID in to a search engine and see what it pulls up. If you get links for a message boards about the numbers, it is a scam artist. I told them I would call the FBI and turn them in . . . that stopped the calls. If it is a valid debt, then do what the experts said. If the searched number pulls up message boards, or in my case once, as Locksmith in Manhattan, NY, then don’t worry about it.

  • BarryK

    In 2006/2007 my career went downhill and i lost everything. I was sued for credit card debt and obviously judgments were awarded against me. Most of the judgnents have been written off, but a couple have appeared again.

    I am getting letters from law firms saying they are demanding full payments of debts from these old accounts . What do I need to do at this point.

    • Credit Experts

      Unfortunately, with judgments, they rarely ever just expire and disappear — meaning even if they expire from your credit report, the statute of limitations to collect on judgments can often run 10-20 years (depending on your state), and even then, they can often be renewed (again, depending on your state).

      When it comes to judgments, your options are much more limited –you can fight them, you can pay them, you can try to negotiate a settlement (which usually requires a larger lump sum payment), or you can file bankruptcy if the debts are so large that there’s no possibility that you’ll ever be able to pay it. You can read more about judgments and what to do when one is filed against you in the following resources:

      Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?
      Help! I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report
      As far as other collections (that have not yet made it to judgment status), if you’re receiving a legal summons for the debts, there are steps you can take to negotiate the debts before they make it to judgment status. To help you understand your rights and the proper steps to take when being sued for an unpaid collection, this resource will help:

      Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    Typically the creditor would automatically update the status at the credit reporting agencies when they send their regularly scheduled updates — usually monthly. If you want to know when that will happen, it may be worth contacting the creditor and asking them when they plan to report the update.

    If it’s a collector, they should send the update shortly after the debt is paid.

    As soon as the update is reported to the credit reporting agencies, your credit reports will reflect the change. Likewise, as soon as the information is updated in your credit reports, your credit scores will also reflect the updated balance. If the account was a collection account, paying it probably won’t improve your credit scores, but it will keep the collection from causing further credit damage in the future –if the collector were to sue or file a judgment against you, for example.

    For more on this topic, the following resources do a great job of explaining how paid/unpaid collections affect your credit:

    The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit
    Will Paying a Collection Account Remove it From My Credit Report?
    Will Paying a Collection Improve My Credit Score?

  • Frustrated

    A medical debt collector contacted me trying to get the balance paid in full. I am not able to pay the full balance. I offered what I was able to pay a month and they told me “don’t even bother sending that amount if that’s all you’re going to pay a month!”
    What should I do?

  • Credit Experts

    If they turn it over to collections, it could. And with an 800 score (which is excellent), it could drop your score significantly. There are caveats to this rule (which you can read here: A Debt Collector Came After me for $8.97) but in most cases, this would cause a significant hit to your credit and it would be better to just pay the $50 than risk the damage. If it’s the principle of the matter, which we totally understand, it really ends up hurting you more than it would the heart monitor company… in which case you have to decide if $50 is worth the damage to your credit and the higher interest you’ll pay on future financing options.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Jennifer – Even if your husband has the power of attorney that doesn’t mean he is responsible for your mother-in-laws medical bills. In fact, I can’t think of a circumstance where he would be, unless he signed something specifically agreeing to take financial responsibility for her unpaid bills.

    What your sister in law did is a form of identity theft – medical identity theft – and it is extremely dangerous to both her and your MIL. Think about it: information about your SIL’s health conditions, medical treatments, blood type, allergies etc could be mixed with your MIL’s and result in misdiagnosis or improper treatment for both of them!

    Your husband should fill out an identity theft affidavit which he can get at the FTC’s website, then contact the hospital to find out how to report this. It is very important that the medical records from your SIL are removed from your MILs. If your MIL is on Medicare, I would suggest he contact them as well to report it and to see if there is anything they can do to flag her account in the future.

    I don’t know what kind of family tensions this may cause, but what your SIL did is illegal and risky and it should not happen again.

  • Credit Experts

    Keston – If they’re the same debt, they can’t collect it twice. You should be able to use your proof of payment and the settlement confirmation from the collector to prove the debt was paid. If Macy’s won’t update your account with the credit reporting agencies, you’ll want to file a dispute and include copies of your proof of payment and any other documentation from the collector.

    The following resources can help you through the dispute process:

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

  • Anthony

    Hi, A friend and I acquired a piece of property back in 2007 in a developing neighborhood. Needless to say, the value dropped well below what we owe. We made a decision to stop making payments on the land and just got our first letter from a collection agency asking for the full amount.

    What kind of options do we have here? It says in the letter that the bank is not willing to foreclose at this time.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Anthony – I’ve written a series that describes your options for dealing with an underwater home. The same options generally apply to a vacant lot. Please be sure to talk with a bankruptcy attorney to learn your legal rights and responsibilities with regard to this property.

      Underwater On Your Home? Your Six Options

  • Elizabeth W

    Hi Gerri,

    Thanks for this forum and your advice. I have a question. I paid off some medical debt in 2005 to a collection agency. I have the payoff letters from the company. I recently received a letter trying to collect on the debt. What should I do?

    • Credit Experts

      Hi Elizabeth – If you’re sure the debt is the same debt that you’ve already paid, you should respond to the collector, in writing, asking them to validate the debt (to make sure that it’s the same debt you paid in 2005). And rather than waiting for the validation, also include copies showing your proof of payment for the debt with an explanation that the debt has already been paid and you no longer owe it. Collectors can’t continue to try and collect on a debt that you’ve already paid so they’d have to stop further collection attempts.

  • Credit Experts

    “It was my understanding that if an agency does not refuse your offer, and they cash your checks, they are agreeing to your terms. Is this the case?”

    This is a common misconception. Unfortunately, unless the agency agreed to the terms in writing, there really isn’t an agreement. And just because a collection company cashes the check doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to your terms. This is one reason why we always urge consumers to get the agreement in writing. If you don’t have an agreement FROM the collector (in writing) there really is no agreement in place.

  • Steph

    We are attempting to settle a deficiency judgment for a 10 year old debt. The debt has been sold to a third party law firm that deals in collections. We are attempting to remove this debt in an effort to clean up our credit report. This judgment is the only thing standing between us, and qualifying for a home loan. We offeedr 10 cents on the dollar for original amount owed, and were turned down. We offered 1/3 of the entire original debt. This offer was submitted to original creditor, whose response was a demand for pay check stubs. Its my understanding that these are requested in an effort to obtain a higher amount than offered, or to determine if they would collect more money garnishing wages vs. agreeing to settle. My question is what do we do next. This debt originated in Colorado. The statue of limitations on a judgment filed in county court in Colorado is 6 years and renewable every 6 yrs. We have 60-90 days to fix this. What do we do next?

    • Michael Bovee

      My experience is that legitimate judgment debt rarely settles for 10% of the balance owed. Even negotiating a 30% pay off is a challenge with judgments. The instances I see where this type of reduction gets approved (outside of bankruptcy), is with hardship and fixed income scenarios.

      Asking for this low of a reduction is often looked at as an exception. Exceptions can require documentation and manual review, as opposed to files where a set spread of what would be an acceptable settlement are pushed through in the normal course of collection.

      If sending in documentation, such as pay stubs, does not support your position that 30% is as good as it gets, do not send anything in. As you have pointed out, that information can be used to determine how to collect the most. But there are instances where that documentation is used to support why accepting so little on a judgment is advisable.

      If there were no time crunch, I would suggest waiting a few months before making another offer. With the time crunch, and the prior offers of 10% and 30% so close together, you would be telegraphing you have a need or goal, which often means having to agree to a higher payoff amount (but not always).

      Are you still living in Colorado?
      What is the balance on the judgment today?

  • Credit Experts

    June – Unfortunately, collectors don’t have to agree to payment arrangements, or agree to payments that you can realistically afford. In which case, another option is to save up a larger sum of money so that you can try to negotiate a settlement later. Keep in mind too, that if you agree to payment arrangements and then default or are unable to stick to the payments, the statue of limitations clock will reset to the date of your last payment. Only agree to a payment arrangement that you know you can afford. For more help on dealing (and negotiating) with debt collectors, the following resources can help:

    What to Do If a Debt Collector Calls
    9 Ways to Turn the Tables on Debt Collectors
    Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    Unfortunately, this is a case of identity theft and the only way to address it so that you’re not held accountable for the debt (and it doesn’t damage your credit) is to report the theft. This isn’t an easy decision and is one of the reasons why ID theft numbers are often thought to be much higher than they actually are — many family members simply don’t report the theft.

    I know it’s not an easy decision to make, but you have two choices… you can pay the collection and accept the damage, or you can report the theft.

    If you decide to report the theft, the following resources will help guide you through the process:

    Consumer Guide to Identity Theft: The Basics
    Identity Theft Emergency: 5 Crucial Steps for Victims
    Identity Theft Victim’s Bill of Rights

  • Credit Experts

    Gerri offers excellent advice on how to handle a debt collection lawsuit here:

    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    This is a story we hear all to often and I wish I had a better answer for you, but unfortunately, the provider doesn’t have to agree to accept monthly payments or work out an extended payment plan — and in many cases, they prefer full payment over monthly installments. Legally, they are within their rights and can send the account to collections if the bill isn’t paid according to the initial terms that were signed and agreed upon prior to the procedure. Gerri has written about medical debts, your rights and how to handle medical collections when you can’t stop the provider from turning them over quite extensively. To explain this problem, and your options, the following resources may help:

    The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems
    Can I Stop a Medical Bill from Going to Collections?
    Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly

  • Credit Experts

    Erin — In answer to your questions:

    My first question is, if and when they agree to my offer and we can come to a payment agreement, will this account now show on my credit report since it’s been paid?

    The fact that the account went to collections is what matters here, so even though you pay the debt, the collection record will remain in your credit report for 7 years from the date the account first went to severe delinquency status, typically at the 180 day late mark. When you pay the debt, the collector will update the collection to show that it’s been paid. For more information about how this works and the impact it will have to your credit and credit scores, the following should help:

    Will Paying a Collection Improve My Credit Score?
    Will Settling a Collection Account Hurt My Credit?

    My second question is, are there any tips or suggestions you have for me for negotiating with them? Or is this amount large enough that I should seek legal representation?

    Negotiating a settlement would be your best bet here. Because collectors buy these debts for pennies on the dollar you’ll likely want to start by offering 25-50% of the amount as a settlement offer and negotiate up from there. Keep in mind, too, that settlements are usually paid in one lump sum. If you negotiate a payment plan, make sure you get it in writing and just be aware that if you default on the payment plan, the debt clock will restart based on the last missed payment. However, before you do anything, we’d encourage you to read through the following resource so that you know how to approach the situation and how best to deal with the collector:

    Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?
    9 Ways to Turn the Tables on Debt Collectors
    Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    Two — Rather than calling them, send them a written letter requesting validation of the debt. Typically, you’d do this when they first send you a collection notice, but if you no longer have the notice, sending a written request to validate the debt, will give you a paper trail in the event you need to dispute the debt in the future. For more information on how to approach the situation and how best to deal with a collector, we’d also encourage you to read through the following resources:

    Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What to Do
    Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?
    9 Ways to Turn the Tables on Debt Collectors

  • Credit Experts

    This has scam written all over it. For more information about these types of scams, you may wish to read through the following:

    FTC Cracks Down on Payday Loan Debt Collector
    How to Beat Debt Collection Scammers at Their Game

  • Help!

    Last week, I Received a letter from a collection agency for $186 for a doctor bill. I have excellent credit, so I called the hospital. Here, they never sent it to the insurance company and are doing so now. They told me they’d tell the collectors to put a freeze on the account and that I didn’t need to contact them. I’m not so sure about that. Part of me thinks I should ask for validation at a time the hospital can’t validate the debt amount, since they’re waiting for the insurance company. If the amount is lower, like a co-pay, will it still go on my credit. How do I keep this off my credit? Thanks!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I agree with you. I would send the collector a certified letter stating that you spoke with the hospital and that they acknowledged their error and are billing your insurance. State in your letter that you will be checking your credit reports and do not expect to find it reported there. Then do so. Get your free credit reports to make sure it’s not showing up. I would also recommend you sign up for’s free Credit Report Card so you can get a free credit score each month and keep tabs on whether it changes, should they start reporting. Let us know how this turns out!

  • Mr. Man

    I am married but I have lived separate from my wife since 2009. My wife went to a dentist for some minor dental work. My wife used her dental insurance from her job to pay for “some” of the charges incurred. The residual of the dental balance (roughly $400.00) was billed to her directly. I do not have any dental insurance in my name but can use her insurance if needed because we are still married and I have a dependent card in my name through her employer’s dental plan that she gave me. She ignored the residual bill that the Dental office sent to her back in mid. 2011. The dentist sent it to collections the same year. This is were it get’s tricky. I never had any idea that she even went to the dentist because they billed “her” (rightfully so) and sent that bill to “her” address. Well this collection debt was lingering for two years. My wife filed for bankruptcy (chapter 7) earlier this year (2013) and her debts were scrubbed. Then a month or so later after her bankruptcy discharge, I get a negative hit of a collection account on my credit report! It says “joint responsibility,” it shows my wife’s name, it shows the upcharge that collections agencies add for their services ($1,100 now), and it shows the $1,100 debt being “included in a chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge” on my credit file as if I filed for bankruptcy and didn’t pay my dentist bill etc.!!! I took a nice hit on my FICO score! It was reported to all three credit agencies. I did an online dispute for Equifax stating that it wasn’t my account and they removed it. I did the same thing with Transunion and they removed it. Now Experian on the other hand has given me hell! I first did an online dispute and the upheld it as my account with no change. Then I mailed them documents from the dentist office of who bill it was and “my wife’s” dental insurance info and included a letter explaining the situation and the fact that even if I am liable that I never received any legal notice etc., and still they (Experian) upheld it with no change after review. I can add a statement of explanation to my file or contact the collection agency they explained. This negative info is set to remain on my Experian credit file until 2018 it shows. Now something to me is inherently wrong with this picture and there should be something I can do beyond this! My wife even said she would pay the debt off but that will only show her balance on my file as being zero perhaps but the word “bankruptcy” would probably still be there… And those credit agencies will tell you anything to receive payment. I contacted them directly myself and these guys are jerks! They were not trying to hear anything I was telling them… I have a few ideas left but what is my immediate recourse!!!?

    • Credit Experts

      Mr. Man – For cases like this the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help. They now regulate and oversee the credit reporting agencies so if two of the bureaus have addressed the problem, but the third has not — file a complaint with the CFPB. They’ll open a dispute and contact the bureau directly to help resolve the issue. To file a complaint against Experian, visit

      The only caveat I would make here is that if you live in a community property state, collectors are legally able to come after the spouse for unpaid debts –even if your name wasn’t on the account, or in this case, you weren’t the person receiving the actual dental procedure.

      As long as you’re not in a community property state, and you’re not a joint account holder or co-signer on the debt, any unpaid debt your wife accumulates during the marriage would be her responsibility — and you would not be liable.

  • Credit Experts

    Felipe — If at all possible, you should try and cancel the lease, especially if you’re no longer living in the apartment. You’ll most likely have to pay a penalty for breaking the lease but it’s better than having to pay the rent each month if you’re no longer living there.

    If you stop paying, the apartment will likely turn the account over to collections and additional fees and interest will be added to the debt. This may not be a problem if you’re not living in the US, but if you ever plan to come back it can affect you in the future if you need to apply for credit — whether it’s a credit card, a car, a home mortgage, etc. The debt will most likely be reported to the credit reporting agencies, creating a credit file record in your name. Credit reports are not only identifiable by social and they don’t need your license. If at all possible, it would be best to terminate the lease and pay the penalty fees so that you don’t have to worry about the debt coming back to bite you if you ever do decide to come back to the US.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Felipe – I agree with all that advice, and will add that we just published an article about how these credit problems may affect your ability to re-enter the US: Can a Bad Debt Get You Deported?

  • Dee

    Hi I cancelled an appt due to my daughter getting sick and I didn’t want to leave and the dental office told me I have a $25 cancellation balance now. Will this go on my credit if I don’t pay?? I mean seriously I can’t control when my baby gets sick.

    • Credit Experts

      Dee — It could. It depends on whether or not the doctor’s office turns the account over to collections. Believe it or not, we’ve heard stories of collection balances as low as $8.97 … you can read more detail about low dollar collections and how they impact your credit in the following article:

      A Debt Collector Came After Me for $8.97

      You’d think the dental office would waive their cancellation fee considering the circumstances. It may be worth going higher than the front desk and speaking to the dentist directly.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Some good points though on number 2, that’s a matter of state law: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I agree with you Zoe – I would not feel comfortable giving them access to your account. Contrary to what you’ve been told, a creditor can send you to collections even if you are making payments. So this may put you in a tough spot.

    But the first thing you need to figure out is who you are dealing with. What is the name of the company and what state are they/ you in?

  • Stephanie

    Hi Gerri, after finishing a lease on an apartment I was told that I will be charged for new carpet and minor damages. I have contacted the manager twice and both times he said that he did not have the total yet and would give me a call back. It’s been a month now and still no word; can he send me to collection without warning me of the bill ? Thank you

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Stephanie – What a great question. Yes, it’s possible. So if I were you, I would send him a letter reminding him you are waiting for the bill. You can make it friendly – but just make it clear that you are waiting to hear. Send it with proof of delivery – delivery confirmation should work – and include your contact information. Keep a copy with a copy of the delivery confirmation information for your records.

      If you don’t want to go that route, at least keep handwritten notes of when you spoke with him and what was discussed.

      Hopefully it will all get resolved easily. It’s just good to stay on top of it. No sense in ruining your credit over it.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Isa – What is the situation with this debt? I’m making a guess that it is an account that was late or charged off that you are hoping to remove from your credit reports. (If I am off base, then my apologies!)

    If so then I assume you have been reading information online that if a creditor can’t verify a debt it must be removed. However, what constitutes verification is not spelled out in the Fair Credit Reporting Act – it’s usually a matter of case law and involves suing the credit reporting agency and/or creditor if they fail to verify the debt.

    If the information is accurate then my best advice to you is that you focus on rebuilding your credit. As the negative information becomes older it will carry less weight, and recent positive information will help you get back on track.

    If there is incorrect information on your credit report that you can’t get fixed, then please respond in more detail about the problem and we will try to advise.

  • Diva

    Hi Gerri ,
    My husband has completed his loan for his truck . However he had 4 deferred payments . They are asking for 2000.00 in 9 days. If we send them half in 3 days and a partial of the other half in the the 5, will they still repo it?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I hope not! I don’t know what the rules are in your state for repossessions, but it sounds like it could be a risk. I’d suggest he try to negotiate with them and get something in writing describing what they agree to. If he can’t, then he may want to try to get a personal loan and use that to pay them off. He can shop for one here:

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Are you trying to get copies of the statements from the original creditor so you can see what kind of interest was charged on the account? If so, one way that may work is to check your credit report. It likely lists the charged off amount which can show you how much you owed when they wrote it off.

    Before you make any payment arrangements you may want to check the statute of limitations for this type of debt in your state. If you haven’t made any payments in four years and the statute of limitations is four years, for example, then you could use that as negotiating leverage to try to strike a good deal.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Paid or unpaid, this debt should not be on your credit reports if it is truly 11 years old.

    When did you fall behind with the original creditor who placed it for collection in the first place? That’s what starts the clock ticking and the account can only be reported for 7 years and 180 days from that date.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Christine – I see no reason why this should on your credit report after ten years. Please follow the instructions in our article about disputing mistakes on credit reports (below) and, if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and/or a consumer law attorney. A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Credit Experts

    Leland —
    We can’t be sure if or when the bill is going to collections, and your plan to pay it off as soon as you can is a good one. Your credit may suffer, at least temporarily. (Credit scores, after all, are supposed to predict the likelihood that you’ll be able to pay as agreed. So, the sooner you can catch up on payments, the better for your score.) Gerri Detweiler wrote about this issue, and you may find this post helpful:

    Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What to Do?

    Good luck with putting this behind you and protecting your credit score.

  • Credit Experts

    Kimmie —
    In general, a collection agency can ask your employer to verify employment, or ask for your address and phone number. If you are not allowed to receive personal phone calls at work, you should let the collector know that, and the calls to you at work should stop. You may find this post by Director of Consumer Education Gerri Detweiler useful: 8 Things Debt Collectors Won’t Tell You.

  • jpelham

    I was wondering. I have an old phone bill almost 7 years in collections. It is about 1350.00. They just recently started sending me settlement papers after about 3 years of not hearing anything. If I do not pay this debt, will it come off in or around the 7-71/2 year mark? I know they can still sue me I just doubt they will. I am not trying to bilk the system I just had cause in the beginning not to pay them and it escalated. Anyway, if I let this go will it come off? They never call, I received 2 letters this past year and that is it.
    thank you!
    Great info on this site

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Paid or unpaid, collection accounts may no longer be reported after 7 years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. So it sounds like it will be coming off your credit reports soon. (Also, paying it won’t change your credit scores – as you probably already know.)

      In addition it’s very likely that the statute of limitations have expired on this debt. Have you checked? That doesn’t affect how long it stays on your credit reports but if they have expired it gives you a defense if they try to sue you.

  • Credit Experts

    Kristy —
    It varies by state, but generally the statute of limitations runs out four to six years after the last payment on a debt.’s Director of Consumer Education Gerri Detwiler addressed old debt in this post: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately it probably is. I can’t say for certain, but if you stopped paying in 2010 then that’s generally when the clock would start ticking on the statute of limitations. In most states the statute of limitations is 4-6 years for most consumer debts. As to the amount they claim you owe, my guess is that you’ve been making very small minimum payments while interest has been accruing at more than 22% a year. When you add in late fees, the balance starts adding up.

    I am not saying you shouldn’t fight it though. Many times debt collection lawsuits can be successfully challenged for a variety of reasons. I wrote about that in this article:

    Seven Ways to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You’ll need to start by finding out for sure whether the statute of limitations has expired on this debt or not. My understanding is that in Ohio debt collectors are given a particularly long period of time to sue, but I can’t confirm what applies specifically in your situation. You can try reaching out to your state attorney general’s office to see if they can confirm the statute of limitations for you. If not, you’ll need to talk with a consumer law attorney.

    If they are still entitled to sue you for the debt and you can’t raise a defense, then you need to think about finding a way to settle the debt. (In almost all cases, debt collectors must sue you and get a judgment before garnishing wages to collect consumer debts.) You can learn more about debt collection defense here:

  • Credit Experts

    You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    And you can read more about debt collectors calling your employer in this resource: Can Debt Collectors Call Your Workplace?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Congrats Hector!! There is nothing you need to do once they are paid off. Unless they are charging an annual fee you don’t want to pay, there is no need to close them. You may even want to use them from time to time and pay in full to keep them active on your credit reports, but that’s optional.

    Do check your credit reports about a month or two after to make sure they are accurately reported with zero balances. You can get your free annual credit reports and use our free Credit Report Card to monitor your score.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately they aren’t required to accept your offer. All you can do is try. I think you’ll find this article helpful in understanding the situation: Why It Pays to Know Your Debt Collector

  • Concerned

    Hello! I got a call saying someone is trying to locate me and that I am in trouble, they have even called my relatives saying I am in trouble as well, they gave me a number to call back and a firm number. What do I do. Please help.

    • Credit Experts

      Did they say what sort of trouble? First, know that not all debt collectors are legitimate. You should ask for, and the collector should provide, verification of the debt, This resource from might be useful:
      6 Important Things About Debt Collectors
      If you believe the debt collector is breaking the law, you should file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection bureau. And let us know how things turn out.

  • Corey

    Hello Gerri, I was told that when you hang up on a debt collector that it is illegal for them to call you back within 24hours. Is that true?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Corey – I am not aware of any laws to that effect. You can instruct a debt collector to stop contacting you. If you do, they can only contact you to inform you of legal action they are taking against you. I don’t always advocate that approach (it leaves them no other avenue to collect) but there are times when it makes sense.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Michelle – Are these federal loans? If so, you’ll want to check out Income Based Repayment asap. It may lower your payments significantly based on your income. This article may help: Pssst…Want to Know The Best Kept Secret In Student Loans?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I would recommend you communicate with them. They may even be able to offer you a temporary hardship program. You don’t have to supply a lot of details about your financial situation, but at least let them know you have a plan for catching up.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If a fraudulent charge could be denied just because there was a signed sales receipt, most consumer’s allegations of fraud would be denied.

    Was the card presented in the transaction? If so, do you have any idea of how it was taken out of your possession and used?

    Consumers often find it helpful to get a police report in these situations but I don’t know how that works where you are.

    If you can’t get anywhere with this, then you may want to complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They may be able to help you make some progress.

    And yes they should have your current address. Otherwise, it might be possible to notify you of action they are taking to collect at your last known address – and you wouldn’t get it. So make sure they have your current contact information.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    That sounds like an illegal practice. Definitely file a complaint with the CFPB and consider talking with a consumer law attorney.

  • nayanuki623 .

    Hi Gerri-
    I have an electric/heat bill from 2011 of around $500 that went into collections. When we moved, my boyfriend put the utilities in his name-no problem. Now that we have moved again, this company said that his name was listed as a resident under the 2011 bill and they cannot transfer the utilities to the new residency until this $500 balance is paid. Because this amount was put in collections in 2012, is it possible for them to put that over his head when the debt due is no longer theirs to collect?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This is a very common problem. If you don’t pay a utility bill, the company may refuse you service – even at another address – until it is paid. In addition if you were a resident or relative of someone living at an address where the utility bill was not paid you may have to pay it in order to get service. I wrote about utility bill problems in this article: 5 Sticky Utility Bill Problems & What to Do About Them

      I said may because consumer protections may vary depending on the rules in your state. You’ll need to contact the agency that regulates this utility – often your state public utility commission – to find out.

      I will add that this bill is not that old and it is probably not too old to be collected (though I can’t say for sure – state statute of limitations will apply). It’s best for you to try to resolve it so you don’t keep running into this problem in the future. You may want to find out if they will work out a payment plan with you so you can take care of it.

  • Credit Experts

    The higher your credit score is, the bigger a hit you will take for an unpaid bill. (While the bill is in dispute, however, it shouldn’t hurt your scores.)

    This post may be useful to you: How Much Will One Late Payment Hurt Your Credit Scores?.

    • rakobrad

      How many points est.? I’m really only willing to pay a pro-rated portion on this bill as I’ve had trouble with this company for years.

      • Credit Experts

        What is the status of the account now? If it is already on your credit reports as a collection account, then paying it won’t help your credit scores.

        A recent delinquency — especially if it goes to charge-off status — could drop your score by 50 – 100 points. Is it worth it? You may want to pay it under protest then complain to everyone you know. There appears to be a mandatory arbitration clause in Sprint contracts, so if you want to pursue it legally, you will likely have to take the dispute to arbitration:

        But if you really want to pursue it that’s what you should do rather than damaging your credit for seven years.

    • rakobrad

      I talked to someone about it from sprint, who said they threw out all my records and could give me no account information, so I refused to pay the bill. I got a call from someone at a collections agency who said it would be labled as “disputed” and that sprint would contact me. It just makes me so upset that corporations have zero accountability for proper business practices. I have no intention of paying until sprint calls me back. Will I take a hit if its marked as in dispute by the collector? I am just confused bc I had a medical bill in dispute for over a year, my credit score was 708, it finally was resolved and my score was back to 770 within 6 months.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I would really encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in student loan issues. There is a locator service at the student loan lawyer website. If you really don’t want to go that route you could try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They may be able to at least help you get some more information about this loan.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    So sorry you went through this, especially when your husband was stationed overseas. This is a tricky one since technically the information is accurate. However, given the circumstances I would encourage you to appeal to the credit union to remove it. While they aren’t supposed to correct accurate but negative information, I don’t see why they couldn’t make an exception given the circumstances.

    I’d suggest you send a letter to the head of the credit union. Point out that your husband was deployed overseas, you never received any correspondence indicating that the loan payment had increased significantly or was late, and note that as soon as you found out about the problem you moved mountains to bring it current. Ask them to remove the item given the circumstances.

    If they won’t, then my only other suggestion is to complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the insurance and the problems it created for your credit.

    Will you let us know what they say?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am having a little bit of a hard time understanding your situation, but it sounds to me like you had an unpaid Macy’s bill, moved out of the country, your mail wound up at your old address and the bill ended up in collections and on your credit reports. The question then is whether you supplied Macy’s with your new address before you moved and/or whether you tried to take care of the balance at that point. If you didn’t, then it’s hard to imagine how else they could have handled it.

    And unfortunately paying a collection account doesn’t remove it from your credit reports. It can still remain on your reports for 7.5 years from when you fell behind on the Macy’s account.

    If you did supply Macy’s with your new address and they failed to send you the bill, then my suggestion would be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. They may be able to help you resolve it.

    Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait it out. (Sometimes when you dispute an older collection account with the credit reporting agencies it does not get confirmed, and is removed as a result, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.)

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately the hospital is not required to accept what you can afford to pay unless you are in some kind of financial assistance program. I wrote about that here: Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly

    Can you get a loan to pay it off? Have you tried negotiating a settlement and/or have you had the bill audited to make sure it is correct? Hospital bills are notorious for containing overcharges.

    • Mrs. Foggybottom

      No we filed for bankruptcy last year. We owe around $3000. That was JUST the ER bill we later got a bill from the doctor that saw her, and a separate bill for labs.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        The best advice I can give is to:

        a. See if you can settle or

        b. Appeal to someone higher up – request an in person meeting to discuss the bill

        c. Audit the bill to see if there were overcharges that might be removed.

        If all else fails you can let it go to collections and try to negotiate with them, though they may tack on additional fees or interest.

        I know it’s a no win situation. Consumers have so few protections. I wrote about that problem here:

        Time for a Fair Medical Billing Act

    • Mrs. Foggybottom

      Also, the hospital has accepted four $50 payments….isn’t taking the $50 checks, cashing them, and applying the payment to our account an acceptance of payment?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It may be acceptance of payment but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t change the amount you are required to pay.

  • libknot

    Call the National Student Loan Data Systems (NSLDS) 800-433-3243 for a record of ALL your federal student loans. You will need a pin. It sounds like to me your husband has a federal Perkins loan which is made through the school with federal funds. The school is the lender and therefore the Perkins loan stays with the college. Whoever did the consolidation most likely did not include the Perkins loan.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    This is a tough one. Without something in writing it’s hard to prove what was agreed, but given that they already took the first payment from you it sounds like they reneged on the deal they made over the phone. That’s why it’s so important to get something in writing spelling out the terms of your agreement.

    If I were you, I would complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Get a friend to help you write a complaint letter so it’s clear what happened and how you want this resolved. (You want them to honor the agreement you made which was XX.) Hopefully they can help you resolve this. Let us know what happened!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Jennifer – I can understand why you would be hesitant to identify yourself to someone who just showed up at your door. Quite honestly, he likely just wants to be able to serve you so he can get paid for his services. Once you are served, you are going to have to figure out how to deal with the lawsuit. This article may help: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • James

    Can a collection agency refuse a payment plan that is affordable for the person paying? My wife was told she either had to pay the full amount of 1600 or 350 a month and she told them we could afford a hundred and taken out of our account on a withdrawal. We were told no and that if we even tried to send it in they would send it back. We are trying to make this right and pay this bill but they pretty much told us if we can’t pay their monthly amount that would take nothing. Is this common, or legal for that matter?? Thanks.

    • Credit Experts

      Yes, it is legal — you do not get to set the terms of repayment. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot negotiate with the collection agency or that they will not ultimately agree to different terms. If they do eventually agree to smaller payments, be sure you get that agreement in writing. You can find more useful information here: The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Donald – I don’t know how the court would view this unfortunately. I’ll have to recommend you talk with a consumer law attorney. A consumer law attorney who regularly handles collection and credit damage cases should be willing to give you a low-cost or free consultation. Visit for a referral.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is this a private or federal student loan? Have you looked it up on the National Student Loan Data System? Let me know whether it shows up there – and if you know whether it is a private or federal loan.

  • Kitties

    Hi Gerri, I see you are offering some advice to people here.
    I could really use some advice myself right now as Michael Agruss’s ignored my free evaluation request from their site.
    I had been renting an apartment with 2 other roommates in Washington state. we all had a big falling out and the other two roommates drowned in their debt and couldn’t continue as we were. So we all split at the end of the lease.
    Now 3 months later, out of the blue and without prior notice from the apartment complex or anyone/anything I received a call from collections claiming I owe something like 1,200 dollars. and they will let me off at half. Naturally I refused
    1.) I haven’t received any mail regarding this, and still havent almost two weeks later after the first call they made where I requested it.
    2.) they refuse to negotiate on the damages, continue to cite that “You sighed a lease” and ignore my claims that the damages were cause by the other roommates. (I can easily pull witnesses to this)
    3.) Claim to be from Genesis, a collections agency, yet the number appears to come from Pride Recovery Services after a search.
    4.) my old roommates are ignoring all calls, and trying to disappear… collection agency appears content to ignore them and focus on me.
    again, I cannot even validate their claims because they haven’t yet mailed my current address(which I provided, so they have no excuse) and I stated as much on their second attempt to collect from me. They insisted on immediate payment, no negotiation, and that I would be sued if I did not pay.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Generally when you sign a lease you agree to be fully responsible for the rent plus any damages to the property, regardless of who made them. So they probably aren’t wrong about that. (You could try to go after your roommates for those costs if you wind up paying them, but it doesn’t sound like you will be successful.) In fact, the collector doesn’t even have to attempt to go after the other tenants.

      However, the collector is required by law to send you written notice of the debt within 5 days of their initial contact with you by phone. Have they done that? If not, then you can do one of two things: contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file a complaint or try another consumer law attorney. If you do, I would suggest you do not focus on the fact that you don’t feel it’s fair they are going after you for damage your roommates did. I understand it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s probably not illegal. Instead, focus on the fact that the collection agency is not following the FDCPA by sending you written notice of the debt.

      (I am not an attorney so please don’t take this as legal advice.)

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is this a business debt or personal debt? And what do you mean by cooling off period – was it in the contract?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Roni – This is a tough one because she technically defaulted on that last payment. I am also not clear on what happened here, “When she finally got a hold of the person calling her, they told her what the problem was and she made the payment. But a collection agency has been calling her.”

    Did she pay the collection agency or the gym? Does she have proof of payment? Who is trying to collect now? A different collection agency or the same one? Who is hanging up on her? I’d need more details to be able to try to respond more fully.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The only thing you can do at this point Rory is to try to talk with the creditor. If they don’t know where it is then you will be waiting to hear from a collection agency. I don’t think there is any central repository of defaulted debt.

  • Pingback: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe? | Best Credit Repair()

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Karen – I think you will find this article useful: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe? As it states, you may have had an implied contract.

    If you are being sued, I would really encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney. The first consultation should be free or low cost. If you can’t afford one, your local legal aid office may be able to help – or at least point you in the right direction.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If I understand your question you are saying that you agree to pay someone else’s debt but now have changed your mind. Is that correct? How did you authorize the payment? Did you give them your credit card number or bank account information? If so, then I would suggest you close that account. I don’t think you have a legal responsibility unless you cosigned or signed something agreeing to pay the debt, but you may need to talk with a consumer law attorney to be certain.

  • Gerri Detweiler


    The statute of limitations and the time period that collections can be reported are two different things. Collection accounts may be reported for 7 years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor leading up to when it was place for collections. So let’s say he made his last payment in June 2008. When he missed the Aug 2008 payment, that would start the 7.5 year period. When the collection agency picks it up or starts reporting it has nothing to do with it. Make sure they are reporting the original date of delinquency correctly so it doesn’t stay on there longer than it should.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If it is on your credit report as a collection accounts it hurts your credit, regardless of the circumstances or type of debt. As for whether they could do that, we can’t give you a definitive answer as it would depend on the arrangement you made and how it would be viewed. We wrote about that here: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

    My suggestion? Check your credit reports to see if it is on there, and if so, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and/or talk with a consumer law attorney.

  • Gerri Detweiler


    You can try. But you may also want to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. They can advise you as to whether it makes sense to file to protect your paycheck.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What state do you live in Betty?

  • gina

    Hi Gerri. I owed about 700 dollars for a medical bill- I have religiously paid 100.00 per month for the last 4 months. Now I am getting collection calls, and they even called my girlfriend and told her it was a call to collect a debt. can they do this? Should I contact a lawyer?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      From what you are saying it sounds like they turned the balance over for collections even though you were paying? We wrote about that issue here: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

  • xavier

    OK so my husband had a car loan with a bay federal but he was late with a couple of payments so at the end he only 4000 on the loan but bay federal sold his loan and we paid a debt collector what was owed know a different debt collector is charging me 4000 I have receipts but they still charging me help what can we do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Send the collector a certified letter, include copies of the receipts and tell them that he has paid the loan already. If they continue to try to collect, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Lisa – Are you a Canadian and did this problem happen there? If so, we unfortunately cannot help as we are not familiar with Canadian consumer protection laws.

  • patches

    Hi I have an old credit card debt from 2001. just recently in 2013 the debt collector started calling me about paying them. like once a month they call. I have told them everytime they call I am not giving out my information over the phone and ask them to send me something in the mail. everytime I get the same answer they tell me they have already sent something out and they can not send anything out again. I have not got nothing from them. I thought after 7 years they can not bother you about it but idk what are my rights here? can they keep harassing me.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What state do you live in? Will they give you their company name and contact information?

    • mcthrash

      just because they can no longer sue you for the debt does not mean they can not call you and try to get payment on a debt you know you owe .. best advice is … you never have to bother with debt collectors if you A.. keep in touch with your creditors and b.. pay your bill or at least make some effort to get something in each month

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Is this an old debt? If so then paying it may revive the statute of limitations. But if it’s a small debt it may be a good idea to pay and and put it behind you.

  • Credit Experts

    We are not lawyers, and it sounds as if you may need one. We suggest you get in touch with a consumer law attorney (you can find one at the website for the National Association for Consumer Advocates), and we also encourage you to submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (

  • Liliana

    ive received a letter in which tells me i have a balance of 22000.00 but when i call the debt collector he refuses to take any payment plan from me. and ofcourse gets nasty. the student loan is from sallie mae from year 2001. i still want to pay at least the minimum without a payment plan with whatever i can afford… what do you think i should do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Do you know whether this is a private or federal student loan? That’s key. If it is a federal loan they must offer you a reasonable and affordable payment plan.

  • Denise

    My daughter is in collection. The agency will not make a contact with her for payents. Every 6 months they raise the amount of the payment. What she owed went on her step kids bills. Now all that is left is hers and her daughter with the soon to be ex as responsible party. He is getting ready to file bankruptcy. The agency is always threatening to garish my daughters wages.
    1) Does the collection agency have to put the payment plan in wring if they are asked)
    2) if her husband files the bankruptcy will the bill be solely hers if he is named as responsible party.
    3) If regular payments are being made and has been for well over a year can wages still be garnished.
    Thank you

    • Michael Bovee

      Denise – Can you share more detail about the collection account (type of account, balance, name of debt collector)? It would be helpful to know as much as possible in order to offer the best feedback.

      1. There are instances where a collector does need to put an agreement in writing.

      2. There are many instances where a joint account will end up being the sole responsibility of one co-debtor, after the others bankruptcy.

      3. For most debt, wages cannot be attached without a court judgment.

  • BJ

    Gerri-I live in WA state. I was issued a summons from a collections agency a week ago for an outstanding hospital fee in the amount of $389.18. I contacted the agency to pay the full amount of $389.18 and the agent refused payment unless I paid all the fees they added which came to almost $900. I told her I could not pay that amount. I would pay $389 or nothing. She said then she would apply a judgement against me. I proceeded to call the hospital directly and paid them the $389.18 in full. Why did the collections agent refuse my payment and can they still apply the judgement now that the hospital is paid in full?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If you actually received a legal summons for a debt, you need to respond. You can likely show that you paid the debt, but I don’t know whether you can still be assessed fees and interest at this point. That would be a matter of state law, and every state is different. (And I am not an attorney.) Read the instructions on the summons for responding and check the court’s website – they should have information on your options for responding. It may mean you need to respond in writing with proof that you paid, or it may mean that you need to show up in person on the court date. Do not assume it is taken care of because you paid. If you do it is possible the collector will proceed and still get a default judgment against you.

  • Kandice Little

    HI! A my husband has a loan that went delinquent with sallie mae. We had made payments here and there but not consistently. It was sent to Allied interstate. We called them trying to set up an arrangement. The original debt was 4,950 but with fees and interest its up to 9,122 dollars. They agreed to drop the debt down to 4600 and allow us to pay 2200 dollars down and then 200 dollars a month for 12 months. We told them we wanted the agreement in writing prior to us giving them any money. They agreed on 2/10/14 to send us a letter with the terms of the agreement. We were to pay the 2200 by 3/3/2014. Later that evening we got a call saying they needed us to make the payment by 2/28/2014 for the 2200. We agreed and then this morning I got a call again saying they could no longer take a credit card and needed our bank info for the payment. I explained I would not give them any information until I had the agreement in writing. The lady I was speaking with said she would email it right then and got my email address and the proceeded to say I sent it now I need your info. I explained again until I read it and was satisfied it was what we agreed to that I would not be giving them my bank info. She agreed and said I could call back once I got the email. I never received the email from them and they called bank now stating they want the 2200 today. Now they are saying they won’t take any kind of arrangement they want payment in full. What should I do? I want to get this paid but I can’t give them the full balance owed. I have prepared a letter that I am going to send certified mail stating the terms we originally agreed upon. If they refuse the arrangement what is my next step? I have asked repeatedly for them to send me a bill and they will not do it. They won’t even give me an address to remit payment to. I need to get this taken care of as my husband is in the military and can get in trouble for having debt. Please help!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Is this a federal student loan or a private student loan? Consumer protections are much different for the two. If it is a federal student loan then you can insist on a reasonable and affordable payment plan to bring your loan current and you can try to get your loan out of default and into income-based repayment. If it is a private loan you don’t have the same protections. Either way, I would suggest you consider talking with a consumer law attorney with expertise in student loan law. It may help you figure out whether they are breaking any laws in their attempts to collect from you. You can find one through or You can also try filing a written complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If they get involved, the servicer may be more willing to work with you in a consistent manner. (They have been investigating student loan servicing abuses so you should file a complaint regardless of what you do.)

      I hope you’re able to get this back on track.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Please let us know what the attorney says. They may be breaking the law.

  • poohbear

    I owed a hospital $1200. They sent it to collection agency so I paid them anywhere from 30 to 50 dollars a month. I was laid off my job I tried paying each month until about 3 months ago. I still owe $900. I still don’t have a job. I’m not sure that to do.

    • Michael Bovee

      Sometimes it just is what it is. You can call the collection agency and communicate the income loss, and that you will not be able to send payments in as agreed.

      Be aware that collectors are trained to try to get an agreement to pay at every opportunity. So, while you are unable to pay now, be careful not to agree to any later payments. Just let them know you will be in touch as soon as things turn around.

      Just to be sure – this account was not part of any legal action to collect?

      Were you making auto payments, or did you call or mail your payments in each time when you were ready?

  • Tabitha Alcaraz

    I owe the last apartment I was at 800, I sent them a check and have proof that I sent it to them, I used bill pay. The check has not been cashed and I am in collections saying I owe more than I did, is this legal?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately it’s really hard to tell, and I am not an attorney so I don’t want to misinform you. It would depend on why they are charging you and what landlord-tenant and other consumer protection laws in your state say. First, I would suggest you consult your state attorney general’s office. They may have information about landlord-tenant laws. If that doesn’t help, you will need to consider talking with a consumer law attorney or local legal aid.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Liz – It is true that collection agencies aren’t supposed to do “pay for delete” deals. Have you contacted Sears to find out why you didn’t get any bills? Is it possible they had the wrong address for you?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry but we don’t know their policy. You will need to check with them.

  • kb

    me and my husband filed bankruptcy in 2005 it has been removed from his credit and not mine ?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Did you file Chapter 13 or Chapter 7? If Chapter 7 it can remain for 10 years from the date of filing. If Chapter 13 it should be off there – you can dispute it. (If it’s a Chapter 7 and it is off his credit then he got lucky.)

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Not at all. Are you sure this is a legitimate debt collector and not a scammer? It’s usually just the scammers that send emails because they are based overseas.

    • Igo

      It’s from a company called Capital Harris Miller and Associates based out of Chicago, IL; and I’ve been reading other people’s comments about these guys and I’m kicking myself for sending them money in the first place yet glad that I didn’t send any more. They’re pulling the same “Dog The Bounty Hunter” wannabe crap again like they did the first time they called!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ten years from the date you filed. The credit reporting agencies might remove it slightly earlier than that. You are getting close!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You may be able to sue the credit reporting agency for failing to notify you before reinserting the information. You can find a consumer law attorney with experience in credit reporting cases at Your other option would be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The rules about robocalls from debt collectors are somewhat unclear at this point but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working on that. I would recommend you file a complaint with them at Make sure you provide all the information you have discovered. You can also try contacting a consumer law attorney with experience in debt collection.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am with you – I wouldn’t pay them that way unless I had something in writing. Did you see this other article we wrote: The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Lynnell – It’s possible that by negotiating with them you restarted the statute of limitations. It depends on your state law. (It is worth checking out.) But even if you did, it doesn’t sound like it should be on your reports at this late date. Collections may be reported for 7 years plus 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor leading up to when it was charged off and placed for collection, regardless of whether the it was paid or unpaid. I would recommend you read our advice for disputing credit report errors, and in your case, I recommend you do so in writing (not online) to fully protect your rights in case you need to sue. Of course, you can always consult a consumer law attorney as well. A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Igo

    @gerridetweiler:disqus P.S. I also filed a complaint against them at, as well!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Let us know what happens!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Sally – This is a really tough one. Technically it’s not a billing error if you didn’t send them your change of address in time to receive the new statement. You might try disputing the collection account on your credit report – they might remove it given the circumstances. Or if they don’t verify it, then it will be removed.

  • Jack

    I am attempting to resolve a debt on my credit report and sent a letter to the collector requesting to they remove the item upon payment a month ago and had never received a response. I spoke to one of their operators asking if they’d ever received my letter was told they won’t remove an item. I then asked if he would send me this in writing along with information about the debt before I paid and he refused. Saying he could take my payment by phone but wasn’t going to send me anything in writing. Can I dispute this?

  • Credit Experts

    Do you mean the debt collector is continuing to call? It is your right to ask them not to contact you by phone anymore. (There may be reasons you don’t want to do so, however.) has a resource that might be useful to you: Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also accepts complaints about debt collection practices. You can submit a complaint here:

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry to hear of the stress you are going through. From what you are saying it sounds like you don’t have much of anything that would at risk if you were sued, and if that’s the case, you could simply write the collector a letter telling them to stop contacting you and instructing them to leave you alone.

    My strong suggestion is that you talk with a bankruptcy attorney. You may not need to file bankruptcy (certainly not for that small of a debt) but the attorney can explain to you what the debt collector can and cannot go after to collect from you. The attorney may be willing to write the letter explaining the situation for a small fee.

    Either way, you are going to be a lot less scared if you know that there’s nothing they can really do to you. Most consumer bankruptcy attorneys offer a free or low-cost consultation. If you can’t find one that will, ask them about legal aid in your area which may be able to provide a similar evaluation.

  • Michael Bovee

    dulce – Most debt collectors will work with you to resolve a debt. The older the debt, the more likely it is that settling the account (paying less than the amount owed), will make the most sense.

    How much is owed? How much can you come up with to settle it in a single lump sum payment?

    Have a plan and a target you are shooting for before you call. But have realistic expectations too.

  • Credit Experts

    Steve —
    We’re sorry to hear you are in such financial difficulty. It sounds as if you might need to ask a bankruptcy attorney for advice.

    Actually, creditors don’t have to accept what you can pay if it’s not the amount due. We wrote a little more about that here: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It is difficult to advise you since it’s hard to follow what exactly happened here and who dropped the ball. Also, I don’t know the requirements in your state for notifying a tenant of damages after they move out.

    My main suggestion is to put everything in writing from here on out. You can call the guy you talked with before and ask him what happened, but follow up with a letter by certified mail. Same thing with the collection agency (I assume that’s what you mean by creditor?) – you need to send them a written dispute if you believe this is erroneous. I would also urge you to get check into landlord/tenant laws in your area to find out if they were required to give you a written estimate of the damages when you moved out.

    You may even want to consult with a consumer law attorney since this will definitely affect your credit scores if the collection accounts show up on your credit. Along those lines, get your free annual credit reports asap to see if this is on there and get your free credit scoreso if it is later reported you can document the damages.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry but I don’t understand your question or situation.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It seems unusual since you are calling them. I am not sure what the legal argument is though…

  • latrice

    Hi recently I checked my score and found out that I had something in collections. I never knew I had something in collections because I was not warned. Never recieved a letter or call from the agency that I owed payment before sending it to the debt collectors. I was wondering is there someway I can dispute this

    • Michael Bovee

      Latrice – What was the debt for? How long ago was it that you missed payments?

      You have the ability to dispute incorrect information on your credit reports. What is it that you consider to be wrong?

  • Greg Roberts

    Hi Keston, my friend is currently on a payment plan with a collection agency for a medical procedure, of a series of tests performed while she was in-patient. The current plan is set at 20 dollars a week. Now the collection agency is calling her wanting more money, and also saying she was 90 days late on her payment plan, which she is not. I have the money order reciepts.
    They are threatning to garnish her husbands check now. What shoul she do?

    • Michael Bovee

      Wage garnishment typically happens as the result of a collection lawsuit that ends in a judgment. Was there a judgment already in the courts prior to the payment plan being set up?

      If not, what is the name of the collection agency?

  • Michael Bovee

    It may still be possible to work this out with the school, but only if they still own the debt, and are willing to work with you on this. What school is this? Have you contacted the school directly about any options they may have at this point?

  • Matt

    persistence you know you’re doing it right when you call to demand good customer service 25+ times a day and they tell you to stop calling them and hang up on you.

  • Michael Bovee

    A debt collector (or creditor) may try to go after assets, what little there are (other than any life insurance), but that should be a fairly formal process. You should talk about your concerns with an experienced estate attorney in your area, and before having any additional discussions with collectors and creditors.

    Do not let a debt collector lead you to believe you must pay for any of these debts as if you are the one liable. You are not, and cannot be made to be.

  • Credit Experts

    If the information in your credit report is accurate, the collector is not required to take it off your credit report. If the information is not accurate, you can dispute it. The good news here is that the more time passes, the less impact the collection will have on your credit scores.

  • kat5874

    My father passed away back in August of 2013. At some point over the past few years he added my mother on to his credit card. My mom and him did not share bank accounts. Well since she is on the card she is now responsible, but is she responsible for the whole bill?

    • Credit Experts

      Our condolences on the loss of your father.

      Whether your mother can be held responsible for the credit card debt will depend on whether the account was a joint account, in which a surviving spouse would be held responsible, or whether she was an authorized user, who had credit privileges but not payment responsibility. Here are a couple of resources that might clarify the issue for you:
      4 Ways Joint Accounts Can Ruin Your Credit
      Should You Add an Authorized User to Your Credit Card?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You need to go back to the medical provider and push them to pull it back from collections. I wrote about that here: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

    If they won’t do it I would really encourage you to talk with a consumer law attorney ( In the meantime get your credit reports to see what is reported. (Do NOT use online disputes because doing so may force you into arbitration.) You can also try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Credit Experts

    No, they cannot refuse to send you written proof via postal mail. This resource may be useful to you:
    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors.

    You should also consider submitting a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can do that here:

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Not to my knowledge. In my 20+ years of credit education, I’ve never found a law that requires that kind of specific notice.

  • Kathrine Ezeribe

    Ok here is my situation, My husband lost his job and now works for min wage. Back in aug of 2012 I had got a contract with an alarm company. They told me the price was good for 18 months but they failed to tell me it automatically renewed. In fact I was forced into a quick sign and nothing was discussed. I tucked the papers away and left it. Now they are threatening me to pay them off even though I told them we can not pay. They sent me an ademdom to sign saying I get three months off pay but would extend the service. Im afraid to sign it though I had already sent one in signed and they claimed they lost it. Is there any way I can talk them out of the renewed contract? I feel it was a dirty trick. Im stressed, they are about to shut off our lights and gas. I had a bankruptcy back in 2010 so Im not sure I can get help there. Also I have fibromyalgia and recently developed a rare form of arthritis that is difficult to treat. My medical bills are even preventing me from seeking the treatment I need. I don’t know what to do at this point.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Katherine – I am sorry this is such a horribly difficult time for you. It sounds like they are going to try to get you to renew and hold you responsible no matter what. And it also sounds like they have a contract that would obligate you if they decided to pursue it.

      The first thing i would do is try to find out if your state has any consumer protections for this kind of situation. Check with your state attorney general or your state department of consumer affairs. If not, then the only thing I can suggest is that you try to get them to change their mind. I’d try to find out the name of the owner or president of the company and send them a certified letter. If that doesn’t work, you can try filing complaints with anyone and everyone you can think of. It may or may not help.

      There is also the risk they can turn you over to collections, but unless you can pay it I am not sure what the alternative is.

  • Credit Experts

    Who called you, and what sort of papers? Are there criminal charges or a judgment? We have some resources that might be useful to you. But be careful; it sounds as if the oollector might not be legitimate.
    Here are some posts we hope you’ll read:
    Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights
    Collections Crash Course

  • Michael Bovee

    karen – The words and phrases you say were used just sound off to me. Do you even recognize the debt they are saying is owed? If so, how old is the debt (when last paid)? What is the name of the collection company contacting you?

  • marty

    My landlord has sent me to collections and now they have filed this with an attorney. I finished my lease on the apartment but didn’t give my vacate notice. I didn’t ask for my security deposit which would have covered that extra month rent. Can they legally take me to court? Can I ignore this and treat it like a credit card and it will soon stop?

    • Credit Experts

      Marty —
      A standard lease agreement would normally require that you give notice that you are moving even if you are at the end of your initial lease. Lease money and security deposit have to be kept separately, and so unpaid rent can’t be taken from the security deposit. Yes, you can be taken to court. We hope you won’t ignore it.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    So you paid this debt as agreed and they are still trying to sue you? If so then you can answer the complaint that you were sent with that information. Unfortunately I can’t give you a detailed response as to how to do that since it depends on the procedures in your state. I’d recommend you find out if there is a legal aid office in your area that will help you answer the complaint or explain how to represent yourself in court. If there is no legal aid office it would still make sense for you to talk with a consumer law attorney to find out whether the debt collectors actions are legal, and they may be able to give you some pointers on how to represent yourself if necessary. They should offer a free or low-cost initial consultation. Visit for a referral to one in your area.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If you cosigned the lease then I am pretty confident you are responsible for the entire amount, including any penalties. But you may want to check out landlord tenant laws in your area to be sure. If you want to protect your credit, then you may want to pay it to avoid it being placed for collections. I would suggest that if you do pay it you get something from the management company in writing stating that if you pay the full amount it will not be sent to collections or appear on your credit reports.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It is not better to dodge it. Depending on state law, they may be able to serve you at your last known address and then get a judgment against you if you don’t show up in court.

    I would recommend you talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney right away if it all possible to see what your options are. They should know how these actions usually proceed in your jurisdiction and they will likely offer you a free or low-cost consultation.

    I would also be sure that you are dealing with a legitimate collector and not a scammer. If they call again ask them for the name and address of their collection agency. By law, they are required to provide you with that.

    • Barry Masteller

      Gerri, Firstly, thank you for the prompt information. The person i spoke to was very rude. A person first called me over and over, at least 5 times. I finally picked up the phone, thinking it was an emergency or something (as it was unlisted number). I was told that i was being sued, and to call this other number to find out details, the person initially calling was the one serving me, and told me he would wait for a call back, after I called the other number, to see if there was some resolution. The guy was very aggressive. He made some statements, like I don’t have to talk to you, the sherif is on is way..etc..
      The best buy account has not had a payment since before 2009 (end of 08). He told me that it was a 2010 collection debt, but as I think about it, there have been over 5 years since i was in a position to make a payment. I have not checked the mailing address mail, where he sent the alleged law suit information, but will post when i do.
      My Q:
      Is the statute based on when I first defaulted, and failed to pay? The bill started out around 600, I need to check my records, those are also geographically not near by atm. Now, interest etc..1200. The offer he had for me was 600 now, or be sued (as well as get even more rude). He was clear that the account was purchased by his company, and that there was 3 more months till the 4 year statute date was in effect, so he said he that’s why he was making haste. Again after some thought on this, i began thinking about the dates since my last payments, when I was able, and recalled it was at the end of 08′ I last made a payment.


      • Gerri Detweiler

        It sounds very fishy to me. Please be careful. Statements like “the sheriff is on his way” give me pause, as does the notion that you should pay someone who calls you out of the blue and whom you can’t even confirm is legitimate. Please don’t pay him until you have more information. It has all the hallmarks of a scam.

        Oh and the statute of limitations typically starts when you stopped paying.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    As much as I would like to advise you I am not an attorney and don’t know how this is handled in every jurisdiction. I’d really encourage you to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney, or consumer law attorney since they will be able to go over your options and should be able to answer your questions. You can find one at NACBA and/or That first consultation should be free or at a low fee. In addition, some legal aid offices do a good job of helping consumers prepare to represent themselves in debt collection lawsuits.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You are clearly going to have to fight back, but to do so you need to get advice from someone familiar with Virginia Landlord-Tenant law. Two things to look into:

    1. File a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUDwhich takes complaints about bad landlords. You’ll also find information about your rights on that site.

    2. Contact Virginia Legal AID: which may be able to help as well.

    And there is also the option of filing a complaint against the law firm with your state bar association. Or you can contact your own attorney for help.

    Please let us know how it turns out!

  • Stacy

    In my medical office setting, if an account is turned over to a collection agency, and still has an open amount due, am I obligated to forward medical records on to a new doctor?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Stacy – You need to check with someone in your office. I don’t know, and as you know medical record privacy is highly regulated.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I would consult an attorney to find out if, in fact, you are responsible for her bill. If you can’t afford one, then find out if there is a legal aid office that can help. You need to clarify whether the information they are giving you is accurate.

  • Gerri Detweiler


    I can only comment on your rights when it comes to dealing with collection agencies. You always have the right to request verification of a debt when a debt collector contacts you but you need to do that within 30 days of their initial contact with you, and in writing. In the first case it sounds like that time has already elapsed. How long has it been in the second situation?

    Whether the landlord is required to notify you before they turn the bill over to collections would be a matter of state law. Generally a specific notice isn’t required, but it may be different under landlord-tenant laws in your state. You can learn more about landlord-tenant law and your rights here:

    You will also need to research what your rights are with regard to your security deposit. In some states, they can’t charge you for normal wear and tear which it sounds like is what may have happened in the first place.

    For these kinds of matters, getting everything in writing, and responding in writing, is usually your best bet. You can always talk with a consumer law attorney or file a complaint against the collection agency at

  • Stacy Elder

    Hi so I stopped paying my AT&T bill and now they say I owe 1000 for cancellation fees and such. Well they called and said they could set up a payment plan for 400 per month for 3 months I told them i couldn’t and they said it will only get worse from here and they would be taking further actions.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You do risk this goes to collection and affects your credit scores, not to mention the hassles of dealing with calls and letters from collectors. If you really don’t think you owe those fees then put everything in writing and send it by certified mail so you have a paper trail. But that doesn’t mean you are off the hook.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Quite possibly yes. Defaulted student loans can carry steep penalties.

    Is this a federal loan? If so then you need to get out of default and possibly into IBR. If it is a private loan then your options are more limited.

    You may also want to file a complaint about the fees with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is taking a close look at student loan servicers and collection policies.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t know the procedures specific to your area, but I would recommend that you contact the court and unless you can confirm that the matter has been dropped, show up. The last thing you want is for them to get a default judgment against you which will complicate things. Getting written confirmation of everything is a very good idea – and having documents notarized doesn’t hurt!

  • DevotedSunflowerFan

    In early April 2014 I disputed an item that one of the credit reports said would “drop off” my report in March 2014 (it was still there in April). The credit bureau wrote back and said the item was “updated” and the date to remain on my report was extended by 2 years! How is this possible when it was originally scheduled to go away last month?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Is it a collection account?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    First of all you should be sure you know how old these debts are. They may be outside the statute of limitations which I believe is 4 years for most consumer debts in Texas.

    Then if you are thinking about paying vs. settling we have several articles that can help:

    Will Settling A Collection Account Hurt My Credit? and

    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • pikabu

    i have an account in collection, can i go to the original creditor and pay it off?? or has to be with the collection company?

    • Credit Experts

      You might have to pay the collection agency. Collection agencies buy uncollected debts from original creditors, and then they attempt to collect the money due. Sometimes, an original creditor (a hospital, for example) might be able to pull a debt out of collections but is not obligated to do so. Here are a couple of additional resources about debt collection that might be useful to you:
      The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors
      Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Collection accounts may be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date of first delinquency. I see no reason why that should be extended for two years. I would recommend you talk with a consumer law attorney; if the debt collector is trying to manipulate the dates it may be breaking the law and you may be entitled to damages and attorney fees. Visit to find one in your area.

    If you really don’t want to go that route, I suggest you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which may assist.

  • Mub

    I was out of country for a while and was unsure about the cox communications modem if I have in my possession so when I spoke with their representative I said I will be returning back by april end do I have time to look for the modem , she said yes and took just the internet service fee(last). on April 19 I called up cox customer service and paid the full balance over the phone and was given reference number and the account was closed with zero balance, on April 22 I got notice from collection agency for the amount that I paid with cox. It says that they wlll report tocredit bureau if amount is not paid in full. I am about to buy a house and don’t want my credit score ruined especially when its paid in full and I got notice a day after.How can I ensure they dont report to credit agencies and if reported how can I get it reverted or get it deleted

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Anytime you get a collection notice you have the right under federal law to dispute it. You have 30 days to do this so make sure you act quickly. Put your dispute in writing and send it by certified mail return receipt requested and keep a copy for your records. You can essentially tell them that you believe you paid this bill in full. Then in the meantime, try to get a clear answer from Cox as to what’s happening with your account. Keep notes of everyone you talk with and what’s discussed. If this was turned over to collections then you want to get them to pull it back from collections.

      Your other option is just to pay ONLY IF you can clearly establish that they won’t report it if you pay it in full by their deadline. (I would want something in writing to that effect if I were in your shoes.) Then you can always go back to Cox to try to get a refund.

      Neither is a perfect solution, but it depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it.

      I would also recommend you get your free copies of your credit reports and get your
      free credit score so if they do end up reporting it you will have proof of how it damaged your credit.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am really sorry to hear what you went through and that the landlord was uncooperative. Unfortunately I don’t know what the landlord tenant laws are in each state. You’ll need to research that to find out if they should have let you out of the lease for that.

  • Credit Experts

    Maria —
    Unfortunately, not recalling taking out a loan doesn’t mean your husband doesn’t owe it. However, the collector does have to verify the debt if you request it (this will be done via postal mail). Federal law requires that the collector provide this information if you ask for it.

    But also be aware that some people who call may be scam artists rather than legitimate collectors, so it’s extremely important to check. Here’s a post that might be useful to you:

    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collection

  • Julie

    We filed a bankruptcy that was finalized 2 years ago. We have been trying to find a school loan that was sold to a different company so we can start making payments. We finally received a collection notice from the company that now has the loan. They want the full amount $15,000 up front. We had a co signer on the loan and they are threatening to go after her. I know during the bankruptcy they can’t contact us, we offered to start paying $100 a month like we were before the bankruptcy they wont accept it. We called the original owners of the loan and they can’t help us. Do you have any advice?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Ugh this is just what the CFPB released a report about yesterday: Have a Private Student Loan? Read This My best suggestion is that you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It may prompt the servicer to work with you.

      • Julie

        Thank you so much.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If she believes her lease lets her terminate early due to the job change, then I would suggest she research landlord tenant rights in California (or Louisiana? – not sure which you mean by LA) and pursue the matter against the landlord. It will be difficult for her to do herself because she is now elsewhere. It may be worth it to at least pay an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant law to look at the lease. If he or she thinks she has a good case, a letter from the attorney may suffice. She can research state landlord-tenant laws here: state landlord tenant laws

    Alternatively she may be able to get help from the state attorney general’s office or state consume protection office.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The biggest risk here is that the landlord turns it over to collections which will affect her credit scores for years to come – and be a pain for her to resolve. It’s worth being proactive about (to the extent you can). The first step would be to research landlord tenant laws in Ohio then take it from there.

    Will you let us know what happens?

    • Rick

      Sure will

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Generally creditors aren’t required to give notice before a bill goes to collections, but there may be consumer protection laws in Texas that I am not familiar with. There is a terrific agency in Texas that should be able to point you in the right direction with regard to both of your situations. It is called the Texas Consumer Complaint Center and it is affiliated with the University of Houston Law Center. I’d suggest you contact them for assistance:

  • Gerri Detweiler

    This is a tough one for me to answer. Generally you are not responsible for a bill that is not yours. However, I don’t know if by using the gym membership you somehow obligated yourself to the contract. I’d suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney – as this collection agency’s actions (putting it on your credit reports) – may be illegal. Or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Send them a letter (with proof of delivery) telling them you already paid it and not to contact you again. If they do, contact a consumer law attorney as they may be breaking the law.

  • Lou Lou Bennett

    Hi! I’m from Michigan and I have a medical bill debt that I owe for $1770.81 from November of 2013. I was making payments to the hospital when I could at $50/month. That was not an agreed upon payment plan between me and the hospital though. I didn’t realize they would do this if I was making payments. This debt ended up with Money Recovery Nationwide. I received a letter from them last week. I contacted them this week. I acknowledge that I have this debt. I want to pay it off. They offered me a 6 month payoff plan at $295/month. I stated that I could not commit to that without speaking with my husband about our finances. They happen to be a bit tight right now. That is a huge bill to add to a monthly budget. I spoke with someone else there today. She offered me 2 more months. An 8 month payment plan at $221/month. Wow, that’s still a lot to me. I couldn’t really agree to that either. She asked me what I could pay. I said I was making a $50/month payment to the hospital and I can do the same with them. She said I could do that but it is not an agreed upon payment plan with them. She said that because I have a full time job (at the company I work for), they expect that I can pay more. Woah, I was completely offended by her comment. Just because I have a full time job, does not mean I can afford to add to my budget, an over $200/month payment to it! She said she would note that I refuse to pay their offered payment plan. I said ok. What could I say?! I don’t know what will happen from here, she said nothing more. I do intend on paying this debt. Things/life just got tough for awhile. All of that could change in a month or two or three… Is this really all they’ll offer me? What will happen next? I don’t want to be sued or anything. I’ll sell my left arm to pay it before I’d let that happen. I just don’t know what to expect now, or what I should do. Sometimes they offer a percentage to just pay it off. She didn’t offer anything like that. Not that I could do that right now. Any help would be appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      The debt collector’s job is to collect as much as possible as quickly as possible, but some do a better job than others of working out a realistic payment plan. It does them no good to get you to commit to payments you can’t afford. They aren’t obligated to accept whatever you can afford to pay, but frankly it doesn’t make sense to me for them to sue. This is a small debt in the scheme of things and taking you to court costs money.

      I’d suggest you sit down with your husband and figure out what you realistically can afford. You may have to stretch a bit and be willing to get a bit more frugal and creative until this is paid off, but find a number that works and that you’ll be able to stick with. Then call back the collector and propose that amount. If they refuse, ask to speak to a supervisor. Make the points I just made which is that you really want to pay this debt but you don’t want to commit to a payment plan you can’t stick with.

      Try to be positive, and upbeat but firm with them about your desire to come to a workable agreement. If that doesn’t work let me know and we will strategize plan B. (You may also want to research that agency to see if they get a lot of complaints.)

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It sounds like they reversed it for you, which is great. You may want to check with them to be sure.

  • jill

    I dropped out of college and was sent a bill for $500.57 just for leaving. they have been calling and sending letters for 4 years. now they have sent me a letter saying this is there last attempt to collect the debt voluntarily what should I expect there next steps to be?

    • Michael Bovee

      The collection language you are concerned about can mean nothing, or everything. Debt collection can often involve the courts, but can more often involve the perception, through carefully worded and formatted letters, that you will be sued.

      What state do you live in?

      Is it the college writing you directly, or someone collecting for the college?

      Knowing the answer to those 2 questions may help to determine more about what their next steps might be.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s really hard to tell from what you are describing. I will try emailing you.

  • Hrshi Miss

    Hi, I have been sending checks to NCO Financial for the past few years for a defaulted private student loan. This year’s checks were returned/not cashed. I received a letter from a new collection agency for the same loan for the original amount +interest +fees. I contacted NCO for records of payments received/starting balance/ending balance. They claim to have no record of my account!! Can I take legal action against NCO for the payments they did receive and “losing” my acct? Are they allowed to do that -stop accepting payments and not give a reason why? Will the original creditor have records of the payments received as well as the ending balance? I will ask the new collection agency to validate debt and send receipt of all future payments. Thanks for your advice.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      This sounds like a nightmare! I would suggest you either consult a consumer law attorney ( would be one place to start) or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – or you may need to both.

  • Credit Experts

    Who wrote the check? And what sort of loan place? A collection agency?

  • lori

    I have a Dr. bill of $1950,, an emergency room visit, that my insurance company says is going toward deductible which leaves full amount to
    pay out of pocket. The Dr. sent me 1 bill and then sent it to a lawyer who is now contacting me for payment. I am currently trying to work out an agreeable/affordable payment plan with their lawyer. Am I right in thinking that as long as I’m paying him something he cannot sue me?

    • Credit Experts

      Unfortunately, that’s not right, though that belief is widely held. You can read more about it here:
      Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

      We hope you can come to an affordable solution.

  • Isabel

    hi i owed a clinic $878 then a collection business sent me the letter that they had sent me to collection and i had to pay in full in a month. i could only afford to send them $400 so i did. and that was about a month ago, now they sent me a letter telling if i dont pay the rest in 10 days the they are gonna send me to court and i am going to have to pay all the court expenses. i can only send them $200 right now. what do i do try to get the rest of the money to pay them in full? or is this just a letter to scare me so i can pay them faster? hopefully someone can answer this as quick as they can because i am so stressed if i pay them in full then i wont be able to afford to feed my children!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It’s a difficult and stressful situation no doubt. The collection agency likely can pursue this in court if you don’t pay and that could potentially result in additional costs to you. It seems rather pointless though for them to take you to court over $478 – though some will go to such lengths.

      I can’t give you legal advice, so the first thing I would suggest is that you talk with a consumer law attorney (who should be willing to give you a first consultation for free) to find out if the collection agency has broken any laws in its attempts to collect from you. The other option you may want to consider is to send them your $200 payment with a letter explaining your financial situation and giving them a timeline for paying the rest of the debt. You could also try calling the collection agency and asking to speak to a supervisor to try to work out a reasonable payment plan.

      You may also want to file a complaint against this agency with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Upset

    I am seriously delinquent on my auto payments. It has been 10 months since I made a payment. I’m still in possession of the car. I checked my credit score and it says that my auto account is closed. I don’t receive threatening calls, what does this mean?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I would be very concerned if I were you. In most states, your auto could be repo’d at any moment. What would you do if that happened? Do you rely on it to get to work or pick up kids or other essential tasks? I’d really encourage you to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney to find out how this works in your state and what your options are for keeping your vehicle.

  • Monique

    Hello, several years ago in 2009 I obtained a bank credit card and later in 2010 or 2011 experienced a financial hardship which caused me to get behind on payments, default and my account was closed. I have been making double payments for quite sometime and this past weekend received a statement showing I had an available credit. I called my credit card company and inquired about the status of my account. They said that my account is closed however the balance that shows available shows in error and they are working on it. My balance is $1,130 and my credit limit is $3,500. I requested for my account to be reopened and request for my available credit to be utilized and they said no I would have to reapply. Is that fair? I understand that regardless I have to pay the balance but why would I have to reapply? Is it anywhere stated in the Credit Card Act or Any rules and regulations that I HAVE TO reapply?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Very likely the terms of their contract with you – which go into effect when you start using the card – give them the right to close your account, and as a result means you have to reapply. It’s pretty standard procedure.

  • Dina Alexandra Abu Alsheak

    My husband signed a “confession of judgement” from a collections agency for his old hospital bill. He does not have an income, only I do. we do not own anything, but cannot afford to pay the monthly installments anymore. what happens if he stops paying? will it ever go off his credit?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      When and why did he do this? How old was the debt? Where do you live?

  • Credit Experts

    Sadly, the situation you describe is all too common. You should file a police report and contact the fraud departments of all three credit reporting agencies, providing proof of your age (to show that you were not old enough to open the account). These resources may be useful to you:

    A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    3 Times It’s Crucial to Monitor Your Credit

  • Enrique Santillan Alcala

    hello, someone from my previews address order some stuff from a catalog company (fingerhut and gettington) and they even have an extra letter on my name. now the company is bugging me to pay what they say i owe them. i have told them so many times that i did not order anything they keep buging me all the time. so i wanted to check my credit score and it turns out that they are there aleady on my score. and what i saw on the dates the accoutns where open they were after i moved from that place. we all did. what can i do to fix this. i have email them and contact them and no help or resolution. please let me know what i can do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Are you saying the other person used your name to order this stuff? If so then it is a case of identity theft and you need to try to get a police report. With that you can file a report with the company stating that the account is due to identity theft, and also ask them to remove it from your credit reports. If they don’t, you can talk with a consumer law attorney. You may be entitled to damages as a result of the credit damage this has caused (if they don’t fix it).

      You may also want to place a fraud alert on your credit reports to try to thwart them if they try to use your information this way again.

      if I misunderstood the situation feel free to clarify.

  • esther

    Hi, years ago I had car accident. Other car hit me, but it was my fault. So I needed to cover for the other driver’s car damages. My car insurance denied the claim because I was an excluded driver something I did not know. So the other driver’s insurance suited me for $12,700.00. But with the help of an attorney I got my debt reduced to $6,500.00. So we signed an agreed judgement. Needed to make monthly installment payments of 100.00. Now I had finally paid off the amount $6,500.00. If fact i ended up paying $400.00 more then the agreed amount because I lost track of time and didn’t realize that the last payment I needed to make was done 5 months ago. And now I call the their office so see I could get those $400.00 back. And they say that I have a balance of 6,000 and some because I made a late payment once now I would have to pay full balance of 12,700.00 as stated on the judgement. What can I do? What happens if I just quit making more payments? What could be the worse thing that could happen? Help!!

    • Michael Bovee

      Talk this over with the attorney you had and determine your next step.

      If they are on the right side of the law here, and the rest of the judgment amount remains enforceable, you are at risk of lien levy and garnishment laws that will vary by state.

  • Michael Bovee

    If the agreement you made adequately covers what happens if you miss, or are otherwise late with a payment, including the consequence of the full amount then being due, that is what can happen. It is what they are saying happened.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Do not pay without getting proof you owe the debt. Collection agencies are required by law to send (by mail) a written notice describing the debt you owe. This is mandatory. Then if you request verification, they must validate the debt. Any collection agency that does not do this is either a scammer (extremely common when it comes to online payday loans) or is a real collection agency but breaking the law. Furthermore, a debt collector cannot discuss your debt with your employer unless they have a garnishment order they are trying to enforce (and to get that they would have to go to court first).

    I strongly suspect you are dealing with payday loan debt collection scammers which we have written extensively about: How to Beat Debt Collection Scammers at Their Game

    • chelsea vader

      Thank you for this. I strongly suspected something was fishy about it all.

  • bob

    I had a repo from 2002 that i never paid on, about a month ago i got a letter saying i owed 9000 plus so i contacted an attorney and he faxed, emailed, and mailed them a letter requesting proof of the debt. A month go by and i get something in the mail talking about instead of paying the 9 k lets settle of something smaller. I know the statue of limitations has passed but do you also think they cant prove that i owe anything because its so old?

    • Michael Bovee

      The older a debt gets, and the more that particular debt may have changed hands from one debt buyer to the next (not sure that happened here), it has been more difficult to obtain documentation proving the debt.

      What is the name of the company trying to collect from you?
      Does your attorney regularly practice consumer law?
      Is this debt on any of your credit reports?

  • Dale

    I owe Verizon some money and asked for a settlement which they offered. I asked to send me in writing the amount we agreed upon and they told me they couldn’t do that. is there anything else I can do to get this settled so I can move on cause I will not send them any money till they provide me some writing documentation that this is what we agreed upon

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It makes me very nervous to hear consumers settling without documentation. If they refuse to send it then I would suggest you do two things: 1. get on the phone and tell them you’d like to tape the conversation and/or have a witness present. Then clearly go over the terms of the settlement and 2. Only pay with a method that allows you to send them a certified letter with your payment restating the terms of your agreement (then keep a copy of your letter and proof of delivery indefinitely).

      I have to warn you that debt settlement expert Charles Phelan says “no letter, no deal.”

  • Michael Bovee

    A 12 year old debt… unable or unwilling to provide the debt collectors name and other details… bad phone number…. It all sounds fishy to me.

    If you have enough information to file a complaint against the debt collector, consider doing so at

    If it were me, I would wait for them to call back, and try to get as much information about them as possible. Then I would file a potentially more detailed complaint with the CFPB.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry Pat but I really don’t understand this question. Can you please try again to explain the scenario? Who are you paying for this? Who is paying the utility?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I have no easy answer for you, especially since you’ve lost the paperwork proving the final payment. Have you considered filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

  • Credit Experts

    We hope your husband is recovering.

    Unfortunately, creditors are not required to accept the arrangements you offer. Have you asked if there is a way to expedite the paperwork process? Or if there is a social worker or other resource to help you explore your options. You can read more about payoff arrangements here: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

  • ScottSheldonLoans

    I would file a formal complaint with the mortgage company asking them to fix/remedy the situation immediately with their third-party appraisal vendor.

  • Laylla

    Hello, Gerri,
    I hope you can shed some light on an issue I’m having. I’m aware that my dentist can report me to a collection agency, even though I have made over 1000.00 worth of payments to him and they have not sent me monthly statements. It’s a harsh truth but I know there isn’t anything to be done about it. He has done this, and has refused to finish the dental work I needed (the initial cost was 9,000.00. I currently owe about 2500.00. I had periodontal surgery, a bone graft in my jaw and the posts placed for 2 implants. He refused to place the implants until i have paid off the bill in full and has refused any other treatment as well.) While I am upset about getting this notice in the mail even though I have paid him money even when I was not working, I’ll deal with it. Except the collection agency is charging me 510.00 over the 2042.00 I owe my dentist. (The other 500.00 of the total 2500.00 is being paid off by a credit line which I am not delinquent in.) Is this legal? I’ve never heard of such a thing and I will be calling them.

    Thanks for any information you can give me.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Collection agencies often can charge interest on debts. It depends on the contract and state law. We wrote about that here: Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ola – As much as I would like to help I can’t advise you here. You need legal advice.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Who exactly is trying to collect from you? “Public Aid” wounds like it could be a scammer impersonating a government agency.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Yes it would be the agreement you signed when you first obtained services from the dentist.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Get your free annual credit reports to find out who is reporting the collection agency. First, dispute it on with the credit reporting agencies in writing (not online) as described in this article:

    A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    If they confirm it as “correct,” contact the collection agency in writing and explain that you want to dispute the debt. (Send your letter with delivery confirmation.) If they again insist it’s correct you may need to get a consumer law attorney involved. Hopefully you have some kind of documentation about the bed bug problem?

  • Quila

    Hello. I hope one of you can help me with this question. We moved out of our apartment early due to poor management and maintenance delays. Our early termination fee was equal to one months rent which we were fine with paying. Long story short we mailed a money order to the apt complex for some of the portion that was owed and they never cashed it an sent the debt to a collection agency. We were able to get the money order back and set up payment arrangements with the collection agency. We were paying and missed one payment by accident because we were moving and mail was all over the place. We got a letter dated 4-16-14 from a law office representing the collection agency telling us that we had 30 days to respond to the letter or they were going to proceed with a court hearing. We called the law office and got a recording that stated we needed to contact the collection agency directly regarding any apartment complex debt. The collection agency was already closed for the evening so my husband went to the post office the next day and mailed off a payment in the form of a money order of what we agreed to pay monthly. About a week later we get a warrant in debt notice from the court with a court date. The date listed on the notice says that it was filed 4-18-2014. the collection agency or law office never gave us 30 days to respond to begin with even though we did try to respond within 30 days and made a payment within that 30 days too. Today I contacted the collection agency to find out what the payoff was on my account and she told me about $300 more than what the actual payoff amount is. When I asked why she told me because of legal fees that were added to the debt. She also stated that I still had to pay the legal fees even if we pay it off before the court date because it will cost them money to withdraw the case from court. Do I have to pay legal fees if we have not even been to court yet? Also, why should we be held responsible for legal fees when they never even gave us 30 days to respond? They filed a hearing with the court 2 days after the date on the letter we recieved which was no where near 30 days. And I thought a judge has to order me to pay legal fees. This issue is in the state of Virginia in the city of Colonial Heights. Please help with this matter. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      There’s no simple answer to your question unfortunately. It depends on all the facts and circumstances as well as state law.

      Your choices are to: a. pay it and just put it behind you, b. contact a consumer law attorney (visit and talk to someone familiar with landlord tenant law as well as debt collection and/or c. file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

      If you a consumer law attorney offers a free consultation that’s probably the best place to start.

  • Lynn

    A couple years ago, I was unable to pay my debt with Nordstrom after I used the credit card to pay the tax of the house, not shopping. It’s been couple years and they sent it to debt collection. Around $5000.00. Can I call the debt collector to deal with them about monthly payment or what should I do? Please advice. Thank you.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Lynn –

      Your approach depends on a number of things including whether you have funds saved to try to settle the debt, how aggressive they are about trying to collect from you now, how amenable they are to settling the debt etc. contributor Michael Bovee has written extensively about debt negotiation and settlement. I’d suggest you start with his articles and then if you have specific questions comment on one of his articles – I am sure he’d be happy to respond. (Note that as far as your credit scores are concerned it doesn’t matter whether you pay a collection account in full, settle it for less or don’t pay it – it’s all pretty much the same under most scoring models. The only thing settling does is prevent it from being sold to other collection agencies and/or a debt collection lawsuit.)

  • Michael Bovee

    If it were me, I would want to know precisely what this is all about. It may not even be about you.

    If you do speak with them, post an update comment with what you learn.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Allison – Have they sent you anything in the mail about this debt? Do you know who the company is or what the debt is for?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Those fees may be legal if they incurred costs when they sued you, but to be sure you will need to consult with a consumer law attorney. Your other option would be to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • marymaryjoyce

    Hi, i owe a apartment complex $3,500. My Fiance sued them for Mold Poisoning and they settled outside of court with him. This was the reason we moved out early. The apartment was in my name but he was listed as a occupant. I was under the impression that once they settled with him everything was clear. Do i still owe the money and if so, What can i do about it.

    • Credit Experts

      We’re not lawyers, and we can’t give you legal advice. Have you asked your fiancé’s lawyer, those one who represented him in the mold lawsuit?

  • Credit Experts

    Anne —
    Congratulations on not falling for this. Yes, there are places you can complain. One is your state attorney general’s office, and the other is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can submit a complaint here:

    However, also be aware that not all credit collectors are legitimate, and many are based outside the US, which can make them difficult to track down and prosecute. Here’s a resource that may be useful in getting t he calls to stop.

    7 Ways to Stop Debt Collection Scam Calls

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not sure what the statute of limitations is for that type of debt. However, collection accounts may only be reported for seven and a half years from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. This debt may be too old to be reported. You’ll find more information here: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately they don’t have to accept what you are willing to pay. Nevertheless, keep documentation if this does go to court. And you may want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If you don’t believe you owe that amount, you can explain to them that you are happy to pay any legitimate charges but you are trying to figure out if it’s correct. Be friendly but firm. They shouldn’t use the threat of reporting it to force you to pay a debt you aren’t sure you owe, but at the same time they *can* report it at any point (they could already be reporting it if they wanted to) so you want to try to work with them to resolve it.

    Keep very careful written notes of what they told you over the phone.

    They are required by law to send you written notification of the debt. Have they done that? Watch your mail – they have five days to send that after talking with you on the phone.

    Then you are going to have to try to recreate your records. Call the hospital and explain that you have heard from a debt collector and ask them if they can send you a print out of your record. Contact the bank where you had the account and ask them whether it’s possible to order your bank records.

    Contact the insurance company that you had and ask them how you can get copies of the Explanations of Benefits.

    The other option is to ask the collection agency, “If I pay this will you not report it to the credit reporting agencies?” If they agree, and you have the money to pay it, then you may want to do that instead but ONLY if you can get that confirmation in writing BEFORE you pay. If you can’t get it in writing from them then tell them you want a witness on the call and ask someone else to listen in. Just make sure you fully understand what they are saying.

    Think about sharing your experience with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Medical collection accounts are one of the issues they are looking at and they need to hear from consumers.

    Finally, be sure to monitor your free credit scores.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t know for sure. I’d suggest you contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for advice.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Diana – Just because it’s not on your credit report that doesn’t mean you don’t owe it. It’s a good thing it’s not on your credit because even a small debt can affect your credit scores significantly.

    If you know you owe this debt then I would suggest you talk with them and try to resolve it. You may be able to settle it for less than the full balance. If you do, get it in writing.

    This article may help:
    What Happens If I Ignore Debt Collectors?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    First of all if this is from 2007 – 2008 then it should be coming off your credit reports soon anyway. Charge offs may only be reported for seven years. Have you made any payments on this debt since it was charged off? If not the statute of limitations has probably expired.

  • Michael Bovee

    Most creditors are not going to accept payment in return for removing any negative credit reporting.

    Who is the creditor you are dealing with?

    Is sounds like this will drop from your credit sometime in 2016. What are your credit and financing goals between now and then?

  • skyy

    Hello I have an apartment on my credit. I never lived there nor do I know anyone who did. I never even been to city that it is in. I have been trying to dispute but I’m not getting any luck. I need help on what to do.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Skyy – When you say you have been disputing, what do you mean? Have you disputed it with the major credit reporting agencies? If so, and they have confirmed it as accurate then your next option is to either talk with a consumer law attorney or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We talk about that here: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Karen – Are you hearing from debt collectors? How old is the debt? Is it one card or several?

  • becks

    I got furniture for rac acceptance. I feel I paid them off and they say I haven’t. I asked for a copy of my contract but they refuse to give me it. Can They Legally Do that?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am not sure if they have to supply that if you request it. I’d suggest you send them a written complaint by certified mail and let them know you are also filing a complaint with your state Attorney General’s office (or the office that regulates these companies – your state AG can tell you) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – and do so. That usually gets a response!

  • Credit Experts

    You could try getting in touch with the medical facility that sent the bill to collections. In some cases, the bill can be pulled back from collections.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Nathan – Congratulations on the progress you are making!

    Judgments are different than other types of debts. Unpaid judgments may be reported for 7 years or the governing statute of limitations whichever is longer. In many states that is 10 years or more, and they can often be removed. So you may want to resolve this by settling. (Be sure to check out laws in your state first.) Be sure to get everything in writing before you pay, and keep in mind you get a 1099-c reporting the cancelled debt as “income.”

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Two separate issues here. One is the statue of limitations on the debt. That may have expired, depending on the state you live in. The second is your credit. Overdraft don’t usually appear on standard credit reports, though they can show up if they went to collections. But they are often reported to specialty bureaus like Chexsystems. Have you checked your reports with those agencies as well as with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion? I’d suggest you make that your next step: Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies: Chexsystems, Certegy Check Systems and Telecheck

  • Ross

    hello. I recived a letter from a law firm that i wasn’t able to locate via yelp, yellow page and internet. They sent me a letter saying that they will place a judgement against me and i got 10 days from the date you received it to work out a settlement. I try calling the number but its not in service. Tried multiple times and the same thing. I was willing to work something out but now im afraid they will garnish my wages or seize my bank account. What can i do to fight this? HELP! Thanks!

  • Credit Experts

    Most likely, your stepdaughter is responsible for her bills. You can read more about the issue here: Medical Bills and Minors: What You Need to Know.

    • tesmphs

      Yes, I originally read that article, which led me to this blog, but it is not helpful as she is not a minor now and has no bills that were incurred while she was a minor. She incurred the bills after she turned 18.

      Does Gerri Detweiler have an answer?
      Thank you.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        As an adult she is probably responsible for her own medical bills. Did either of you sign anything agreeing to be responsible for the bills when she went into the hospital?

        • tesmphs

          No, I signed nothing as I was not present at any MD appointments or the hospital when she had surgery. Only her biological mother and father were present but no bills have been sent/addressed to them.

          • Gerri Detweiler

            I am not an attorney so I can’t offer legal advice. but if I were in your shoes, I would send the providers a letter stating that my daughter was an adult when she had the surgery and that I am not responsible for those bills. I would send it with proof of delivery.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ashley – an eviction can be reported for seven years from the date it was entered. If they won’t work with you to remove it then you’ll just have to wait for it to drop off at that point. The lawyer can try to get it removed but there is absolutely no guarantee.

  • Credit Experts

    It does not. Life insurance is not part of the estate. For more about debt after death, see Debt After Death: 10 Things You Need to Know.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    The rep may be correct that they aren’t set up to accept credit card payments. If you are having trouble paying this debt I’d suggest you at least talk with a credit counseling agency to see if they can help. Let us know what happens!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I assume there was a court judgment? Judgment creditors often have the ability to garnish wages (depending on state law). If they learn of your new job they may try to collect that way again. Here’s an article that may help you understand judgments: Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not sure I understand your question. You state nothing is due. but if there is a judgment you owe the amount of that judgment. Yes, interest may accrue. How much can be charged depends on state law and the contract. This article may help:
    Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s a valid question. I guess the answer depends on what actually transpired here. If Darad didn’t didn’t know it was outstanding (and weren’t just ignoring the letters from the provider) I’d suggest he or she try to get it removed. This article may help: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What is the name of the collection agency? I supposed it’s possible they are servicing the loan though I haven’t heard of that. Have you checked your credit reports to see if this is on there as a collection account – or with late payments? Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    There is no shortage of interesting questions, no?

    In that first situation, I think the consumer should fight it. If the bill was paid before it went to collections, they should argue that it should have never been turned over to collections. if the furnisher won’t remove it, I think they should talk with a consumer law attorney about a possible credit damage lawsuit.

    With regard to the threat of “refusal to pay,” we discussed that in point 1 in this article. It’s an empty threat.

    I am not an attorney but I agree with your comment I believe I saw elsewhere where threatening to sue a consumer before giving them the opportunity to dispute the debt could be an FDCPA violation.

    Of course many of these issues are sorted out in case law – at least until the CFPB comes up with their new rules!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Sometimes there is residual interest that has accumulated. I am not saying they are right but given the small dollar amount it might be best to pay it – ask them for something in writing first stating that if you pay it there is no further balance due. Then after it is resolved the the judgment has been released you can always file a complaint about the attorney with the bar association and/or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s not legal advice – just the way I would handle it if I were in your shoes.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Good advice Chris! And a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the same time would probably be a good idea as well.

  • Gerri Detweiler


  • Credit Experts

    It sounds like you feel overwhelmed, and it’s easy to see why.

    If you think there is little or no hope of repaying the debt, you may want to consult a bankruptcy attorney (an initial consultation is often free). Another option is calling a credit counselor for help establishing a realistic debt management plan. Here are some resources that may be useful to you as you figure out your next move:

    What Happens if I Ignore My Student Loans?

    What Happens if I Don’t Pay My Credit Card Bill?

    When Should You Consider Bankruptcy?

    5 Ways To Get Out of Debt: Which Will Work for You?

    Good luck in getting these resolved.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    How old is your daughter?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s hard to say. If you are doing everything you can to try to pay it and you are communicating with the collection agency you may want to try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is looking into collection practices.

  • Maz

    my father passed away 3 month ago and he was full coverage mediciad for long term benefit.

    we’ve received 2 medical bills from 2 different organization. one of them $551 and another one $3071 .

    all bills are in my father’s name .

    they noticed if we wouldn’t pay they will forwarded us to collection agency and probably reflect on our credit history.

    who is responsible to pay that bills for deceased person ?

    will they reflect on my father’s credit history or relatives ?

    please advise me what should we do ?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Kat – Have you read our article about defending a debt collection lawsuit? We suggest you start there: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Credit Experts

    Which collection agency is calling you? Were you a joint cardholder or an authorized user?

  • Michael Bovee

    Ideally you would want to get the loan on affordable payments. Talk to them about what those options are when they call next, or get proactive and connect with them to discuss options.

    What type of loan is this? Settlements in the normal sense are not as likely to happen on student loans.

  • Credit Experts

    We are sorry for the loss of your husband.

    As for whether you have to pay, sadly, the answer may be yes, because you live in a community property state. But we suggest checking with an attorney from Nevada to be sure, because laws vary even among community property states.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Jessica – I’d suggest you start with these two articles: Help! I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report and Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?. If you still have questions after reading them feel free to post them on one of those two articles. Hope they help!

  • Lindsay

    Over 2 years ago I made an arrangement with a collection company for a 5 year old debt that I owed. By the time that it got to the collection company I owed $7,051- significantly more than the original debt. Per the agreement- I would make $150 payment via automatic withdrawal every month and the collection company would not charge interest as long as the payments were made. Fast forward to now and I find out that I still owe $5498. I have made $4,200 in payments so I should only owe $2,851. It turns out that they have been charging me interest the whole time despite agreeing not to. Is there anything I can do? I have already paid much more than what the original debt was.

    • Credit Experts

      Did the collection agency put its agreement in writing? If it did, and you have that document, a consumer law attorney may be able to help.

  • Wanda

    Hello, My accident bills went into collection because although we won the case we were unable to collect. I made an offer and the collection agency refused. What can I do now?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately just because you were unable to collect that doesn’t mean you were off the hook for those bills, and the collection agency doesn’t have to accept what you are willing to pay. If the bills are more than you can possibly afford then you may want to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. If not, then you’ll have to keep trying to negotiate with the collection agencies until you can come up with agreements that work. (Of course you’ll want to make sure the statute of limitations hasn’t expired before you make payment arrangements.)

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If you had other unpaid hospital bills it may not be illegal for them to turn all of them over to the collection agency. You could talk to a consumer law attorney to find out for sure. You could also try filing a complaint with your state attorney general’s office.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You must find out if there is a judgment against you. That makes a huge difference in your options here. The most important things you can do right now are to a. request verification of the debt – follow the instructions in that letter and send them a certified letter asking them to verify the debt, then b. get your free annual credit reports to find out if a judgment is listed.

    Let us know what you find out – is there a judgment or not?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It sounds to me like this debt is outside the statute of limitations then, unless a judgment has been issued against you. I’d still suggest you request verification of the debt to make sure and then if they don’t produce a judgment, you send them a letter telling them not to contact you and they must stop. Also in Texas you have a great resource, the Texas Consumer Complaint Center. Hope this helps!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Maz – Your father’s credit reports probably include a notice that he is deceased. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but if collection accounts appear on his credit, it doesn’t really matter at this point. It sounds like they are making an empty threat as far as the credit reports are concerned.

    These accounts should not appear on your credit reports (or those of other surviving relatives) unless one or more of you agreed to take financial responsibility for them. If he has a surviving spouse, however, it could affect her and she should get legal advice.

    The providers may try to collect from the estate if there is one. You can refer them to the personal representative or executor of the estate and once they have that information their contact with other relatives should cease. If it doesn’t, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or contact a consumer law attorney.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No it doesn’t sound like any of those should be on your reports if you defaulted in 2005 and didn’t make any payments since. Collection agencies are supposed to report the original date of delinquency – the date when you first defaulted with AT&T. Collection accounts may only be reported for 7 years plus 180 days from that date so accurate information is crucial.

    You’ll need to dispute each of these collection accounts with the credit reporting agencies that are reporting them. I suggest you do so with a certified letter (keep a copy). If that doesn’t fix it you can either talk to a consumer law attorney and/or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You’ll find more details in this article:

    How to Correct Credit Reporting Errors on Your Credit Report

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s a good thing you contacted the law firm as it sounds like you are being scammed. Interest and fees can be added to collection accounts (state law and the contract govern how much). You don’t want to pay a scammer, though, and it sounds like may be what’s happening.

    Did you explain to the law firm what happened? They may be very interested to know that someone is trying to use their name to fraudulently collect debts.

    If this outfit calls again tell them you want them to mail you verification of the debt in writing. (Email is not acceptable.)

    And I’d suggest you report this call to Please also read: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

  • anuhea

    Hi, I just received a writ of garnishment from a payday loan I made 7 years ago. Originally it was for 371 and now its up to 819. Since then, the payday loan I made 7 years ago and failed to pay, I totally forgot about. I have not heard from them not once since the loan defaulted 7 years ago. Its not even on my credit report. I called the lawyer requesting the garnishment and explained that if I would have known or been contacted in some way to repay the debt, this would have been resolved sooner. He said if I make a payment of 672 then that would stop the garnishment and it would be paid in full. I just don’t see why I would have to pay 7 years of interest without knowing I had a debt with them until now!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You’re sure this is legitimate and not a scammer right? Have you verified this is an actual attorney? Did you get something in writing?

      If you are confident you are dealing with a real lawyer then my next question is whether the statute of limitations has expired. In many states the statute of limitations would have expired by now unless there was a judgment – but you say there’s not a judgment on your credit reports?

      I’d suggest you dig a little deeper and consider talking with a consumer law attorney or or checking with your state attorney general, however, to be sure this is on the up and up.

      If it is, then you’ll want to resolve the debt. I am not aware of any requirement that they send you periodic notices of a defaulted debt.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    They are probably based overseas so even if you try it won’t mean much. We wrote about this problem here: 7 Ways to Stop Debt Collection Scam Calls

  • Credit Experts

    This sounds like it could be a scam. If you think there is a possibility it is legitimate, you can ask for validation of the debt. You might also ask for agency name, address and phone number and verify those yourself. Here’s more information that may be useful:
    9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

  • ramon cerezo

    Gerri thank u for your prompt response the fact is I’m 73 so no way I’m going to pay off that mort & I can pay it if it goes up

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You’re most welcome. I hope you find a way to deal with this. It’s not easy these days I know.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If the Columbia House debt is more than 7.5 years old it should not be on your credit reports. You can dispute the duplicate collection accounts as well to hopefully clear up who actually has the debt. I suggest you start by disputing these accounts. Here’s how:

    A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Credit Experts

    What does the lease agreement say about who is responsible for the trash bill?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Paying off a collection account does not remove it from your credit reports. However, your credit reports should reflect the fact that the balance is now zero. What I’d suggest is that you get your free credit reports from all three major credit bureaus in about a month. If it’s not showing that the balance has been paid off, then you can dispute it. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports and free credit scores.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Yes you should be worried that this could affect your credit. They don’t necessarily need your Social Security number or even your correct address to report it. However, if you don’t believe you legitimately owe the debt then you have the right to dispute it. You should do so in writing via certified mail immediately. Request verification of the debt. If it turns out to be a valid debt because you signed up for a contract online then it’s possible this will affect your credit reports. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Creditors generally are not allowed to discuss your debts with your ex-spouse unless they are a cosigner on the debt. You may want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Credit Experts

    Frances —
    We are not lawyers, but it sounds as if you need one. In general, all parties (primary borrower, co-signer and lender) would have to agree to change in loan terms. It’s hard to understand how you could have been put on a new loan without your knowledge or consent.

  • macy

    I have recently agreed to make a lump some payment for a bill to a collection agency, but then I get paperwork stating the original company is taking me to court. The problem is where they keep sending these pink slips to pick up certified letter I no longer live there .I called this ccompany to let them know that I have a change of address and they say that they are still going through with the case.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Macy – please talk with a consumer law attorney right away to find out if the creditors actions are legal, and if so what you can do to protect yourself. You should be able to get a free consult. Visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates if you need help finding an attorney in your area.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You’d have to find out what your state’s laws say. If it is a small amount it’s probably not going to be worth the trouble.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It really depends on what you being by “mean.” Collection agencies are not allowed to be abusive or misrepresent a debt, but whether they broke the law would depend on what they said to you. You can either try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or you can talk with a consumer law attorney to find out if they broke the law. If they did, you may be entitled to damages.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am sorry I am not sure I understand. Who is the judgment creditor? The one that obtained the judgment. Have you contacted them?

    And what is the date of the judgment – the date the judgment entered by the court? You do understand that paid judgments stay on credit reports for seven years, correct?

    • J.R.

      ABC LENDING in Delaware is the judgment creditor. It was filed in 2007, when I called the numbers that I have the all told me that TJM Financial bought abc lending. Along with all accounts that were current at that time. Mine was not one of them. It was explained to me that I don’t owe TJM any money and they won’t put in writing that i don’t owe ABC or TJM anything.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        That’s a problem we’ve heard about from other consumers.

        You could try disputing it with the credit reporting agencies but since it is in the public record it will likely be confirmed. But it’s not a bad idea to do it anyway. Get your free annual credit reports and dispute it with each agency that is reporting it.

        If that doesn’t work (and, again, it probably won’t), your best bet is probably to contact a consumer law attorney to find out what your options are. You could also try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is very interested in debt problems consumers are facing. Explain that you want to resolve this judgment but the company is out of business and you have no way of doing so.

        We wrote about this problem you are experiencing in this article: How to Kill Zombie Judgments on Your Credit Report

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No you didn’t reset the statute of limitations. California has strong consumer protection laws but scammers don’t care because they are based overseas. Tell them to go ahead and sue you and that you will see them in court. I bet you won’t. This article should help: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer

  • Michael Bovee

    It sounds to me like they got a judgment against you in court, and garnished until that was paid in full. The amount they are trying to collect for now was not part of their original judgment. Otherwise, they would not be sending letters and being polite about it (so to speak). If they could garnish they would.

    Do you have a copy of the original court judgment?

    • Kim

      Hi Michael,
      Yes, that is correct. There was a judgement against me (only because they didn’t have my current address, I didn’t receive prior communications). I do believe I have the original court judgement, though. Also, I was mistaken about the amount… It’s apparently $1800 that they’re requesting to collect now.
      I’ve looked up information regarding this topic, and was considering sending them, the Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission a letter as to why I don’t owe these extra fees (they’re going against the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, correct?).
      I haven’t had further communication with the debt collectors, but I don’t want to just sit on it and potentially get in even more trouble from it! What should my next step be??

      • Michael Bovee

        Your whole experience with this collector is something I would run by a consumer law attorney in your state. Most attorneys with a practice focused on fair debt collection offer an initial no cost consult. Take advantage of that to get your bearings on what you will do next, if

        Check out in order to find an attorney you can speak with.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    We decided to write a story about this general issue of family id theft. In addition to what we discussed in the story, however, in your case it sounds like the lender was complicit and should not have allowed your mother to sign for you for a change in loan terms. So I would suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney, and see whether getting the attorney involved might get the lender to remove your name from this account. Let us know what happens.

    My Mom Stole My Identity. Do I Have to Turn Her In?

  • Gerri Detweiler


    Collectors aren’t required to pay what you can afford but if it’s a legitimate collection agency hopefully you can work something out. The fact is you can only do what you can do right now. It sounds like your priority is making sure your daughter is fed and taken care of. You may have to just tell them that you can’t afford anything right now.

    As for the insurance issue, something doesn’t sound right to me. If that were the way it worked no one’s newborns would be covered. Where do you live? What is the name of your insurance company? How long ago did this happen?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    If you weren’t receiving the service that you were promised it would’ve been better for you to put that in writing and file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and/or your state consumer protection agency, rather than just not paying. However, you may be in luck. My understanding is the statute of limitations for most consumer debts in Texas is four years. This is a very old debt so I really don’t think they can successfully sue you at this point. Before you pay a penny make sure you contact the Texas Consumer Complaint Center for advice and assistance.

  • Michael Bovee

    Yes, you can often set up the same type of payment arrangements with collection attorneys, as could have been arranges with creditors and debt collectors. But there are cautions for doing that if a lawsuit has already been filed.

    What is the total balance owed? What is it you can afford to pay each month?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t have a simple answer to your situation but I’d suggest you start by researching state landlord tenant laws to see what rights you have. You may have to get an attorney or contact Legal Aid if you can’t afford one.

  • conelia

    Ok… . I had a roommate skip out on me, I discussed with the management that I couldn’t afford the apt. So I left the apt before I could be evicted. Now they’ve sent the both of us to collections for an amount of over $3,000! I haven’t spoken to my ex-roommate but I’m sure she sees it on her credit report. I haven’t paid collections anything, I can’t afford it. Will there be future actions taken against me? I’m in Phoenix, az. And I’ve never had this problem before. ..

    • Credit Experts

      Conelia —
      That sounds very stressful, and we’re sorry that happened to you. As far as taking action against you, the collector might be able to take legal action. Was management aware of what you were doing, and did they agree to release you from terms of the lease? Have you spoken with the collection agency? In some cases, they may agree to accept less than the total amount owed or agree to let you pay it off incrementally.

      As far as future actions taken against you, it’s possible they could go to court and get a judgment against you. That is a bigger negative on your credit report, and it could result in your eventually having your wages garnished.

      This might be a good time to reach out to your former roommate. If you could get help there, would this be something you can pay? If payment, even in installments, is impossible, you might need to talk with a bankruptcy attorney (an initial consultation is often free). Here are some resources that might be useful to you:
      state landlord tenant laws
      The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors
      Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You – Now What?

  • Credit Experts

    That will be up to the power company. “Written off” is an accounting term that means the company has stopped counting the money you owe as an asset. (And that is done so that investors are not misled into thinking that bad debt is likely to be paid.) But that doesn’t mean it’s been forgiven or forgotten. Whether you are still obligated to pay will depend mostly on state law and statutes of limitation. Here’s a resource to help explain if and when debts “expire:”
    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    When disputed information is removed from your credit reports, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can never be reported again. It depends on whether it is accurate, whether the time period that it can be reported has elapsed, and whether the proper procedures for reinserting that information have been followed.

    It sounds like you had an underlying dispute in the first place but it’s hard for me to tell from your comment what exactly the problem is. Can you provide more details?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Get a consumer law attorney involved. You may have a case for credit damage. Visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates to locate one in your area. You can also try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but if time is of the essence you may be better off hiring an attorney.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No – collectors are not obligated to only accept what you can afford to pay.

  • Michael Bovee

    You can always try to negotiate and settle out of court. I am not sure how realistic 30-ish percent will be for this collector, but generally my experience is that is too much to expect when settling debts that reach the courts.

    Another concern can be whether any insurance covered costs associated with these debts. Contracts with medical service providers can prevent any discounting of fees, even at the court stage of collection.

  • Elle

    I had a medical bill that was sent to collections in 2008, I checked my credit report in 2012 and it was still there. Recently (2014) I did a credit report and it was gone. Once its erased can they put it back on my credit report?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I am not sure that would be a legitimate defense to the collection lawsuit. You’ll need to talk with a consumer law attorney. You may also want to read: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • JOHN

    Hello, Ive just received a letter from a collection agency about a traffic infraction that was past due, I completely forgot about it thats why I haven’t payed it. But my question is, now that I have received a letter from the collection agency, does that mean my credit score has now been effected in a negative way? Thank you in advance for the response.

  • Credit Experts

    Do you recognize the bill and creditor?

    • JS

      No, but it looks like it came from a legitimate collection agency and could potentially be for a family member that lived at our house.

      • Credit Experts

        Was that family member at least 18 years old when the debt was incurred? (If so, the debt would belong to that individual.)

  • Gerri Detweiler

    No, unfortunately there is no way to “warn” the credit reporting agencies about information that may be coming. However, it would be very wise for you to get copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and then to monitor your credit on a regular basis. If the information is reported, that may become part of your legal action against the complex. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I’m not sure I fully understand what happened here. Did you end up paying the school enrollment fee another way? If so, then I would think you would have a legitimate complaint. But if the bill remained unpaid for an extended period of time, that it’s not surprisingly got turned over to collections.

    Regardless, any time a debt collector contacts you, you do have the right under federal law to dispute the debt. Can you get something from your bank verifying that you closed that account due to fraud? If they are willing to provide you with a letter or statement or something like that, then I would recommend you provide that to the collection agency along with a certified letter stating why you dispute the debt.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    We see a lot of these kinds of complaints, though not usually for this large of an amount. If you don’t believe you owe it, you should absolutely dispute it. Send a certified letter to the collection agency stating something to the effect that you dispute it because you were told there is a zero balance on the account when you closed it, and that you want proof of this debt. If they can’t provide proof, or if they continue to pressure you, you will need to either contact the consumer law attorney or you can try filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately, they aren’t under any obligation to settle. Some will, some won’t. You may also want to read this article if you think the amount they are trying to collect from you is incorrect in the first place: Seven Ways To Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What state do you live in? The statute of limitations may well have expired. This chart can give you a basic idea, but you may need to check with your state attorney general’s office or local consumer law attorney. Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

    Keep in mind if you make a payment or agree to make payments that will extend the statute of limitations. So you want to investigate this right away, and if you think the debt is too old send a certified letter to the collection agency letting them know why you don’t believe the debt is valid any longer.

    If the statute of limitations has not expired, you still have the right to dispute the debt because you aren’t sure it’s valid. Again you would send them a certified letter explaining that you never received a bill and requesting proof of the debt.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I believe it would be illegal for the debt collector not to specify the name of the debtor. I would suggest you either talk with a consumer law attorney or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Credit Experts

    Jun —
    Do you mean the original creditor? In many cases, debts are written off by the original creditor and sold to a collection agency. At that point, the original creditor no longer owns the debt. So when you are paying a collector, it’s extremely important to be sure that whoever you are paying actually owns the debt. But yes, debt collectors can charge you for much more than the original debt. You can find more here:
    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors
    What Happens If I Ignore Debt Collectors?
    The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Since you live in Texas, I suggest you contact the
    Texas Consumer Complaint Center. You may also want to file a complaint against the lender with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If it happened to you it may well have happened to others.

  • Michael Bovee

    Based on what you shared so far, I suspect it is a scam debt collector, or one willing to cross over the legal line when it comes to collecting.

    I would file a debt collection complaint with the CFPB with as much detail as you can. You can do that here:

    What is the name of the debt collection firm?

  • Credit Experts

    Daniel —

    Those threats make it sound as if the new company is possibly scamming you as well. This post may be useful as you try to determine that: 9 Signs You Are Talking to a Debt Collection Scammer. But debt collectors do not deliver paperwork ordering you to appear in court. Scammers make threats trying to frighten people into paying right away.

  • Michael Bovee

    Why do you assume Highland Capital is legitimately collecting?

    I am concerned about the legitimacy of the collector, but also the threat to sue you if you do not pay right now. Legitimate collectors just do not give ultimatums in that way.

    I would encourage you to contact an experienced debt collection violation attorney in Alabama. You can find one at Most offer an initial consult at no cost. That will help you understand your options for dealing with this.

    Debt collectors can indeed continue to try to collect after the SOL expires in your state. They just lose the ability to legitimately collect through the courts.

  • Michael Bovee

    Yes they can.

    What state are you in?

    Can you afford to take them up on the offer?

  • jessie

    The company I owe is a hospital that closed do I still have to pay

    • Credit Experts

      Yes, you still do have to pay. Assuming you received goods or services, you are obligated to pay. (Think of it like this: The closed hospital also has creditors, and they want their money. The debt you owe is considered part of the hospital’s assets.)

  • Michael Bovee

    If you were sued, I would encourage you to connect with an attorney using the same reference I linked to in my above comment.

    Your SOL defense would be simple.

    But call one of the attorneys you find now, rather than later. You may find you can be proactive with your next step, rather than waiting to see if you need to be reactive.

  • Credit Experts

    Our condolences on the death of your husband. The answer to your question depends on several things — you would owe the debts if you live in a community property state (or had opted in for community property in Alaska). Community property states are: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. You would also be responsible for debts on any jointly held credit cards. For more, see Who Pays Your Credit Card Debt When You Die? and Debt After Death: 10 Things You Need to Know.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It depends. Was the doctor a participating provider in your insurance plan? It’s essential you find that out ASAP and that you also talk to your insurance company. If they were a participating provider then it may be that they have to eat the cost because they didn’t bill you in time. This is often referred to as “balance billing,” and it’s prohibited under many providers contracts with the insurance networks they participate in. (If they were not a participating provider than that doesn’t apply.) Whatever you do, make sure you show up for this court date. If you don’t they will get a default judgment against you even if they are in the wrong.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It could very well be, depending on the type of debt in the state you live in. This may help: Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Contact the attorneys office. They should be able to provide you something in writing. If they don’t you can threaten to file a complaint with their local Bar Association and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Jen

    Hi gerri.
    I have a collections agency after me about a gym membership from over 2 years ago, which is outside my statue of limitations. Theyre trying to say that i owe over 1000 dollars. The first time i asked for valid documentation, they failed to provide and asked me for the money again. The second time, i wrote the manager, he responded today with the documentation, which was incomplete but did have my signature on it.. “Please find back up.” Is what he responded with the attachment. What did he mean by find back up? Am i wrong or was that a threat? All i said in the email prior was that this is outside my limitations and without proper documentation i regret to inform you i cannot go forward on this debt.
    Is this harrasment and or just completely unprofessional? Can i take this to court?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jen – I suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in debt collection cases. They can tell you whether they think you have a case, and if you do they may not even charge you anything to take it because if the collector is breaking law the collector would have to pay the attorneys fees. If you are having trouble finding an attorney in your area you can visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

  • Becky

    Hello, I have a dental loan of about $1,300. I ended up having a miscarriage a month after I opened the loan and due to being out of work and hospital/doctor exepenses I was unable to make payments. I’ve been making small payments of $10 and have been in contact multiple times with the loan company to tell them that is all I can do. They said I am 60 days from it being sent to recovery and then after recovery it will be sent to a third party collection. When I explained to them the situation and that is all I can pay a month they said they can’t do anything to help me. I live in PA and I am wondering if they can send it to collections if I’m still making $10 payments a month? Any suggestions on what to do?? Thank you for your time!!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry to hear what you have been through, but unfortunately it is a myth that if you are making payments you can’t be sent to collections. We wrote about that here: Four Medical Bill Myths That Can Cost You Dearly

  • dc

    I paid off my master card to the sum of $5,000 and had no late payments and then received a letter they were closing my account.I am so upset. Is there anything I can do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Have you tried talking to them? Sometimes these letters are sent to segments of customers and if you call them they will reconsider. It’s worth a try. Let us know what happens!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Do you have any documentation of your settlement agreement? Did you get anything in writing?

  • Angela

    I am recieving a bill from a collection agency for college courses from 2012 however i did not take courses in 2012. I have spoken to the college and the collection agencyand was promised the issue will be resolved back in August of 2014. It appears to be mistaken identity as I did graduate from the College in 2000, andd I have a very common name. Since it is now November and I’m still being sent a bill from the collection agency, do I have any recourse. Who should i contact to take legal action?

    • Credit Experts

      Angela —
      You can find a lawyer referral list at the National Association for Consumer Advocates website. You should also take a look at your free annual credit reports and dispute any errors you find there, including explaining that the collections is an error. It is best to do this certified mail with delivery confirmation. You should also take a look at your credit scores, to see whether your credit standing has been hurt as a result of this. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

      Good luck in getting this straightened out quickly, and please let us know how it goes.

  • IJS

    Hi. I got a settlement letter from bank of america. I had owed 2500 and they said they were willing to settle for 1500. I had called and we’d agreed to settle. I had thought it was a good opportunity to finish a debt and it wasn’t until I researched it that I realized it’s bad for my credit. Since this only happened the other day is there any way I can ask to cancel the settlement and just pay off what I owed slower? I know it’s my fault for not researching better. I can’t believe I ruined my credit completely when I thought I was just trying to end a debt asap.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am curious why you are saying it is bad for your credit. What is the status of the debt right now? If it is already charged off or in collections settling it shouldn’t make it worse.

      • IJS

        It wasn’t in collection yet but it might have been soon because I was late for a few months. That was my problem. I shouldn’t have “settled” the debt when it wasn’t technically in collection yet. I was wondering if I could or should call them to reverse my decision or if it’s really too late or wouldn’t make a difference.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Why don’t you try? I will email you.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Nicole – We just wrote about this kind of problem in this story: Credit Deja Vu: When Negative Information Keeps Showing Up on Your Credit Report

    It may be bogus but it’s hard to tell. You have the right to dispute the debt and request verification. Have you done so? If not, and you were notified about this “new” debt in the past 30 days, please send them a certified letter telling them you paid this debt already and want verification. Have you done that?

    • Nicole Meuret

      I spoke with a person and pretty much got into a scream match. They sent me documents (2) via email that were to verify this was actually true but it’s just a payment arrangement. I do not want to speak with that person again he was so rude. I’ve done some research about the company name and I’m finding nothing but scam reports. I don’t know what to do they ever had my social security number.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Documents via email do not suffice. Can you elaborate on the agency you are dealing with? If you suspect this is a scam, it very well may be. And it is very easy for these companies to buy debts with lots of consumer info. I just wrote about that in the article I shared with you.

        • Nicole Meuret

          The name was Lincoln group out of California the document said Lincoln associate.When I was speaking to the man I ask him if I could speak to someone else and he told me no. I’m just really confuse on what to do.

          • Gerri Detweiler

            Nicole – I sent you an email.

  • Jason

    Hello- I’ve been working on restoring my credit for years and have done so very well…with one exception. 10+ years ago my father consign on a car to help my credit. He was paying for it but want to establish credit. We had a falling out and he ceased to pay for it and I (stubborn kid) also refused. Obviously went to collections but fell off a few years ago. I’ve since completely restored credit. Never heard anything about it again until recently. Offer 90 percent off if I make 3 small payments. One it’s not even the full amount owed originally and two if I seems them a check for the settlement amount would that actually HURT my credit again. Not that I expect a debt to just go away but would paying this stale debt be a bad idea. Statue of limitations in Florida says they can’t do anything but would it be in my benefit to just pay it? Any help would be amazing! Thanks!

    • Credit Experts

      Jason —
      If there has been no activity on the account for more than seven years and six months, it shouldn’t be on your credit report or reflected in your credit scores. What is most likely is that the collection agency bought the debt for pennies on the dollar and is hoping to collect. It wouldn’t hurt your credit to pay money after the statute of limitations has passed, but it won’t help it either. It would be a good idea to check your free annual credit reports to see if this collections is still on it. It is a good practice to do this anyway; it can alert you to identity theft, and mistakes in your credit report can affect your credit scores, which affect not only whether you can get credit, but what you pay for it and for insurance.

  • aaron

    I have a debt collecter calling and i tried to set up payments but they want half now and half next month and they say they dont know what will happen if i dont pay half this month and half next what should i do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You can only do what you can do. They aren’t obligated to accept what you can afford but you can only pay what you can afford. It’s hard to tell what exactly what will happen. They may just be pressuring you. How much do you owe and how do you plan to pay it off? How old is the debt?

  • Tega

    Well, I owe the hospital $430.00 and I have been making monthly payments since I received the first bill in the amount of $20.00 a month. Is it possible for it to go to collections and place on my credit report and now the collection is offering me a settlement for $264.00. I asked for it in writing and they told me that they could not do that. What am I suppose to do? I’m asking several things, how can it go to collections when I’m making monthly payments? How can I get it in writing it I decide to go with the settlement? Should I go with the settlement? and the bill is only from March 2014.

    • Credit Experts

      Do not pay it unless and until you have something in writing. If the settlement is offered in writing and you can pay, why not go with it? Has the hospital been cashing your checks? And had the hospital agreed to accept payments of $20 a month? The very best thing would be if the hospital pulled it back from collections and you were able to pay the hospital. A debt collection on your credit report will badly damage your credit score. Here’s a post about a similar situation that may help: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

  • Tina Tidwell

    Thank you, I have and still is paying the hospital directly and they are accepting my payments. But this collection company has it on my credit report. And are calling me.

    • Credit Experts

      Have you seen your credit reports? You should not be paying both the hospital and the collection agency for the same bill. Please call the hospital to see if there has been a miscommunication somewhere. And check your credit reports to see if a collection is actually being reported. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports. And here’s an article on dealing with bill collectors: The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors. Good luck, Tina, and please let us know how it goes.

  • Credit Experts

    Nothing. Those debts are much too old to be on a credit report or affect a credit score.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    In order to take the money out of your bank account they must have gotten a judgment against you. We wrote more about that topic here: Help! I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report

  • Jason

    I have a collection agency that I have been paying for over a year now and I would like to lower my payment for about 6 months but they said that if I tried to do that then they would sue me. I don’t know if they actually intend to or not but does this seem ok that they are doing this?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Maybe, maybe not. On the one hand, they aren’t required to accept whatever you can afford to pay, but on the other hand, it is possible they are making a threat about action they either can’t take or don’t intend to take. And if it were the latter, that would be illegal. Have you tried talking with a supervisor? If you can’t get anywhere you may want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and/or talk with a consumer law attorney about your options.

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