Home > 2014 > Managing Debt

87-Year-Old Pays Bill, Still Gets Hit With Collection Account

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

All Charles Hoffman wanted to do was switch his phone service. He accomplished that, but not without some serious miscommunications, which ended up damaging his credit report.

The 87-year-old New Jersey resident canceled his Verizon phone service in June 2012, paid his final bill of $112.09 and went on with his life, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. That is, he did until he received notice from a collection agency for an unpaid bill of $112.09. Hoffman presented his bank statement and bill showing he paid Verizon, and he thought that was the end of it, until he pulled his credit report this year and saw a delinquency of the same amount.

As a result of the negative item, Hoffman’s credit score was 720. That’s actually a good score, but it’s lower than he expected it to be, and even though he’s not in the market for a credit product, he knew he needed to restore accuracy to his credit history, the Star-Ledger reported.

How Small Errors Become Big Credit Problems

The issues Hoffman dealt with could happen to anyone. According to company policies described by the Star-Ledger, Verizon requires customers to cancel phone, Internet and cable services separately, even though they’re bundled into one bill. Hoffman canceled his Internet and cable five days after switching his phone service, so when he paid the final phone bill, it was credited to the wrong account.

After a few rounds of attempting to sort this out with Verizon, the company told Hoffman the delinquency will be removed from his credit report.

“I feel a lot better now,” Hoffman said to the Star-Ledger. “Now all I want is the credit report to be fixed. I’m 87 so it’s not that I’m going for a mortgage. It’s the principle. If anyone looked it up, I’d be an adverse risk.”

How Consumers Can Correct Damaging Errors

From start to finish, the $112.09 phone bill had a negative impact on Hoffman’s credit for at least 2 years, though he wasn’t aware of the account’s presence on his report until he recently checked it.

His experience highlights the importance of regularly checking your credit scores and credit reports, because you may have no other way of knowing your credit history is being inaccurately reported. That inaccurate history could hurt your chances of getting a loan or credit card you really need.

You’re entitled to free annual credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — but you can get free credit scores even more often. On Credit.com, you can get updates to two of your credit scores every 30 days for free, so you’ll notice if there’s a sudden change and, perhaps, an issue with your credit.

If you find an error on your report, you have the right to dispute it, and the instructions for doing so are easily accessible on the credit bureaus’ websites (you can also read about disputing errors here). Don’t wait until you need to apply for credit to check your reports — a dispute can take some time to resolve.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

Image: glegorly

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team