I recently received one of those warm and fuzzy notices from my monthly credit monitoring service. It went something like this: “Dear deadbeat, you have been badly maligned by an inconspicuous collection agency that says you dodged your responsibilities and you owe billions”. Awesome (sarcasm).
These reports rarely give you contact information or full account numbers so you have to turn into the equivalent of .007 to find who it is that wants you to pay money you didn’t even know you owed. Thank goodness for Google.
I found the company in question who shall remain nameless (fine, you beat it out of me: West Asset) and noticed the many, many negative consumer reviews. It seems they have a pretty hefty reputation for harassing and belittling the consumer. I was sure it was probably just sour grapes.
I would have been completely compliant (not an offering I often make) if the man on the other end of the phone had not been so rude and obnoxious. Comments such as, “Do you always dodge your bills?” is completely uncalled for and hugely antagonistic. I’m a peace loving person but already in my mind I was slapping this man in the face. But I digress.
I’d like to say openly that I believe that many, if not most, of the people who owe money are good people caught in a bind. I’m thinking it’s good business practice to speak to people with a tone of respect and common courtesy (there but by the grace of God go you). If I owe it, I will pay it. If I don’t, I need you to listen and work with me. In the world of West Asset, this is a fairytale.
Unpaid debt pretty much covers all branches of office in our government; state and federal. Overdue debt pretty much covers all of Europe, America and many third world countries. And then there’s me.
The amount in question is a little over $700 and was incurred in 2009. Since I don’t even remember what I wore yesterday, I am not too hard on myself that I didn’t have the foggiest idea what this was for.
When I advised the gentleman (and I use the term loosely) that I had never once received a bill, he responded that it wasn’t his problem. When I advised him that I would get back with him once I could figure out the purpose of this alleged hospital visit, he challenged me by asking if I had made so many trips to the hospital that I couldn’t remember what this visit was for. To which I responded: “Bite me!” Not exactly my finest comeback.
I have never appreciated being talked down to, degraded or humiliated. I can do all those things to myself without anybody’s help. To have a third party, a man I’ve never met, talk to me the way this schmuck did (I call ‘em as I see ‘em) enraged me. If I could have reached through the phone I would certainly have ripped his heart out of his chest. That is if he had one.
After more than four hours of voice-mail hell, being transferred to a total of 7 extensions, two doc offices and one hospital billing company, I finally discovered that the debt was for a neck injury I had suffered in 2009. The doc I had seen uses the same billing as the hospital in question and was kind enough to fax me copies of my invoices which proved my account was paid in full. Whew!
This is information you would think the collection company would want to know. You would be wrong.
In speaking once again to the man from West Asset, I pointed out that my credit clearly demonstrates a person who pays her bills on time. To which he responded that it clearly pointed out that I was in fact a flake as I had not paid the bill which was now in collection.
Upon presenting my evidence, Mr. Jackass (probably his real name) advised me that my debt was to his agency and not the hospital or the doctor. They had purchased the debt and he would not honor any conversation I may have had with them regarding the owed monies. I was left speechless.
I tried for 10 minutes to explain that there was no debt and that I could prove it, that it was probably a simple bookkeeping error. The fact that the dates of service matched up as did the amounts owed along with the doctor in question meant nothing to this idiot.
His last response to me before hanging up on me was that it was my problem because they would not release the collection notice from my credit report until I paid them in full all monies owed. Bite me again!
Right about now I’m feeling way too nibbled on. It is now painfully clear to me that I’m dealing with a shyster organization that fronts themselves as a legitimate collection agency. How does this stuff happen (she says as she grinds her teeth)?
And so, I am at the letter writing, nail biting and credit reporting stage. I need this collection off my credit report if I am to refinance my home. I need it off my report just so I can sleep better at night. What I am thinking I really need is to feel this guy’s body under the tires of my car. But I digress … again.
What I’ve learned is this: when you are dealing with agencies that collect debt you should always ask them to validate the debt. If they can’t do it, you most likely don’t owe it. Also check out the statute of limitations of the debt. When all else fails, send a cease and desist letter to the collection agency (certified) with a copy to your credit bureaus.
I’m not really sure how or when this saga will end. If you have ever dealt with a collection agency, you know that it is frustrating at best. I am in the clear, yet my credit remains uncleared. I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling about it. It’s hard to fight stupid.
Times like this I wish I had a cousin named Guido. Where is the Godfather when you need him?