Nasty Collection Agency Tricks
With Fed shutdowns and benefits in limbo, many veterans will have run-ins with a collection agency or two. Don’t be embarrassed. In fact, fighting with a collection agency can help prep for fighting with the VA for your benefits. It’s a very similar process. Here’s how to get your facts straight and avoid digging a deeper hole for yourself. There are a lot of websites out there on the subject, giving lists of this or that. Here is what I have done for family members and myself when we come up against these nasty snake oil peddlers.
First, always ask for proof that you owe whatever it is they say you owe. Over the past 20 years, banks lost a lot of documents as a result of credit backed securities and buyouts. Meaning, it is really difficult to tell who owes what to whom for what services or products. Always, always, always, ask for copies of the documents they are claiming are the basis of their proof that you owe money. Many times, the data might be entered into computers, but the original document will be lost. Unless there is a contract with your signature on it, you may owe nothing. Make them prove it before you pay one penny.
Second, agents will try to trap you with what you’re saying when you’re nervous. My uncle had me sit in on a call between him and the agent. Since we have the same last name, no big deal. The issue with him was the fact that the collection agency never mailed a bill or a copy of any contract. Rather than mail the contract, the agent kept circling around to the question, “are you refusing to pay?” I interrupted the conversation every time. “No, he is saying he will not pay until you send a bill and provide the contract you claim to have.” This made her mad, and she eventually terminated the call without answering.
Third, if you have an iPhone, smartphone or speakerphone, have a friend or family member join you on a three-way call with the collection agency. Introduce the person to the agent. This will keep them honest. Plus, it will add a second pair of ears on your side to any silver tongue techniques used by these slime balls.
Fourth, have no mercy for these banksters. They don’t care about you or your issues. Don’t help them make their case. Many times, the same companies that sold their debt to the collection agency entrapped you, the consumer. Don’t feel guilty for making the collection agent earn their pay. It’s your job to advocate for you, especially in these lean times.
Fifth, avoid talking to these people on the phone beyond the first or second call. They will try to twist your words, and if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen. Only correspond via mail. Send the mail via certified mail with return receipt and a second copy via regular mail. This will allow you a day or two to think through any response to any claim. Again, agents are trained to twist your words and push you into paying them money. Their bonuses are dependent on this kind of outcome. With most situations, agencies have 5 days to mail you a bill to support their claim that you owe. You have 30 days from receipt of the bill to contest it. This must be done in writing as stipulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Google the Act to read about what these agents are supposed to do.
Last, and most important, go to Office Depot or similar and buy some cheap but useful supplies. Get a Classification Fold with 1 divider. These are the same folders used by the VA and law firms for organizing veteran/client files. Get a two-hole punch and some 3M sticky tabs for notes. Every time you have correspondence by phone, write a summary of the conversation and mail it back to the company. Again, use certified mail with return receipt and send a second copy via regular mail. Print out one hardcopy, and copies of all other related mail, and place it in the folder. Keep a log of all communication. This will serve as your lifeline, especially if you are being accused of debt that is not actually yours, or it might be yours but you’re not sure.
It’s always good to pay your debts so long as they are yours, unless you’re the VA or a major corporation. These guys never pay. But for the rest of us, fight these bastards tooth and nail because you will get no mercy. These guys make money if you pay, and it doesn’t matter to them if you actually owe the funds. They get a certain percentage on the dollar of all money recovered. His or her ideal outcome is for someone to pay something, whether legitimate or not. And that is why collection agencies suck.
Just wanted to add that if you receive a call from a collection agency OR ANY # through caller I.D. that you do not know anything about, Do NOT call the number back and upon their voice mail it giving you the prompt to hit a certain # to have your number **removed** from their list. What is happening ALOT now is these unethical companies actually have things set-up that when you hit that key to have them removed, you **MAY BE** actually agreeing to billings for services placed ON your phone bill, OR the statute of limitations may have or is days away from reaching it’s limit on a debt that may have been discharged due to Bankruptcy, etc., BUT has been SOLD in debt clearinghouses and by hitting that **key** indicating to them you want to be removed, these dastardly people actually will USE THAT as evidence the debt is VALID and a WHOLE NEW 7 YEARS starts for statute of limitations FOR THEM. Point is: if you do not know whom is calling you and look number up on GOOGLE, report number to FTC online, and never call them back rather, add them to your Call Blocking list, which ATT allows 12 numbers archived max, but as I do, simply remove the oldest number on list then add last number called to list, blocking them–EVEN if you ARE on the National Do Not Call List. By the way, congressional Repug’s in the House are wanting to allow these same scum to be EXEMPT from the Do Not Call List to your cell phone–write your Congressperson and tell them what you think about this invasion of your privacy! Hope this helps even one person and…Happy Veteran’s Day to everyone!!!
Clearly, external collection agency’s are an issue. The VA without notice turns over bills to the Treasury Department without notice and they automatically go in deduct money from benefit checks, social security checks, bank accounts etc.
The Treasury Department refers you to the VA. The VA stonewalls you and if you you do speak with the VA most of the time it is an unknowledgeable individual with a substandard work ethic. Bottom line: You are screwed!
Mr. Steven Altimari,
I would recommending first talking with a Veterans Rep., such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV) or American Legion, these individuals may not handle this type of topic themselves, but would know what direction to point you in, probably be able to give you a point of contact (POC/name and number). From my experience individuals in these groups are fantastic and live to serve fellow Vets in any way possible.
I am 40% disabled vet currently enrolled in the Chp.31 program. I am unemployed and was forced to apply for a home mortgage modification from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
Here is the problem: When Wells Fargo added up my gross monthly income, they took my gross and then proceeded to add a tax to my non-taxable income. ie. My monthly VA Disability check and also the monthly stipend I receive from chapter 31 for attending college full time. This in turn boosted my monthly gross income which ultimately reduced the amount of my modification. Wells Fargo claims they have the right to do this, I questioned my accountant about this who told me this practice is unquestionably illegal. He is a former IRS agent. Who can I contact for assistance in this matter? Considering the fact that this involves VA disability benefits, there must be an agency that can assist me in this matter. Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I also want other disabled vets to know about this unethical practice.
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