I call myself an author because I have published things and have had things published (subtle difference. Thanks to desktop publishing technology, anyone can publish. I take advantage of it). Many of my author friends are experts in things like Scotland, werewolves, time travel, shape shifting, editing, werewolves in kilts
(they do exist)
motorcycle clubs, editors by day, vampire motorcycle outlaws by night, and sarcasm. Sarcasm is an art form. I have somewhat different areas of expertise (not in sarcasm. I excel at that).
I earned my expertise in dealing with debt collection the hard way. I am a battle-scarred warrior.
Not that pretty, but the other images were pretty gnarly. Including a one-eyed lion.
I know what is legal, what it isn’t, when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.
So, I’ve been getting calls from a Nebraska (402 area code) phone number. I’ve ignored them, let them go to voice mail. Today was a day of confronting the results of bad decisions I’ve made (which I call “shoveling shit”. Here’s the thing, it’s like laundry. If you take care of it, you may spend maybe one or two hours doing loads. If you ignore it, you’ll spend at least a day and have to wear a paint-stained hoodie and too-tight yoga pants because you’re out of clean clothes). They called again and I took the call.
It was a recording. Clue Number 1 that this may not be legit.
It was a recording threatening legal action. I had received nothing in writing regarding a pending lawsuit or any collection action from this outfit, which had my name, a case number (which is not a legitimate legal case number. There is a certain “style” to legal case numbers, regardless of jurisdiction. This one had none of it. Now, it could have been an internal case number, but since they were threatening impending legal action, I think it was a random collection of letters and numbers pulled from someone’s ass), but did not identify the name of the company. Clue Number 2.
Being in a mood to do so, I called them back. My thought was “So, you wanna play?”
This is the part where I teach you guys something. The 6 or 7 of you who read this. Unless you’re a trust fund baby, chances are you’ve had credit cards, medical bills, gym memberships, past due car insurance payments, some kind of something that’s ended up with a collector. Hey, I’ve seen credit reports that had unpaid parking tickets, library fines, and even bounced checks to Chinese restaurants. I am not making this up. If it can be sent to a collector, it will be. And they will put it on your credit report. Check your credit reports. That’s another lesson.
I called the number, 402-382-7932 (if they end up getting flooded with calls, I don’t care). Some of you may recognize it because one of the tags led you here. The phone was answered with the standard language of “attempting to collect a debt” but not all of it (Clue 3) and “In House Processing.” Once I provided my confirmed my identity, I was told that a credit card company was proceeding against me and this was my last chance to settle before going to court.”
Legitimate debt collectors clearly identify themselves, the company making the attempt, the creditor, and the amount right off the bat (that’s the shit I shoveled this morning, talking to a collection company under contract as opposed to a debt buyer who may have bought a spreadsheet of accounts or just made up shit). I got the name of the company, nothing else. Clue 4.
My response was “No.”
She said, “What?” I replied, “I’m in contact with my creditors. I don’t have a pending collection. So no.”
She then said, “Fine, we’ll go to court” and hung up. I tried to call back and found I was blocked. Clue 5. Game, set, match. Not legit.
Okay, so here’s the lesson: debt collection is chiefly governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Federal law), state consumer protection laws (and their “teeth” will vary from state to state depending on how much money the AG and legislators have taken from the debt collection industry), The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) which is now under the “acting” control of Mick Mulvaney, so its effectiveness is questionable, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under the control of Wilbur Ross (also questionable effectiveness), state consumer finance protection agencies under the auspices of the Attorney General’s office (and again, that will vary from state to state).
Knowledge is power. Hard-won knowledge even more powerful.
You are allowed one free credit report per year from Equifax, Transunion, and Experian from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Pull them. I suggest staggering them, one every four months, so that you are continually up to date on your info. You can also check in with Credit Karma for Transunion and Equifax on a daily basis, but that site’s purpose has morphed from credit monitoring to selling credit products (Capital One now owns it). However, it is accurate as to what’s on those reports and updated at least weekly. Use it as a backup to pulling the full report. NB: Unless you are on the brink of applying for some serious credit (like a mortgage or installment loan for a car), don’t bother with getting the score unless it’s offered for free (and even then, take it with a grain of salt).
If you get a call from someone attempting to collect a debt, check your credit report first. If you’ve been given the name of the debt collection agency, see if it’s on your credit report (CBR), especially if they’re threatening legal action. If not, the call is suspect.
Get the name of the person calling you, the company, the phone number they’re calling from, company address, who they say they’re collecting for, and how much they’re demanding. You will want this information to file a report. I was calling back to obtain this information when I found that I’d been blocked. Legit collectors are not afraid of giving you this information.
You have the right to receive written notice of the debt with all of the above information included (except name of caller). And, in fact, you should have received written notification. I hadn’t.
The Dodd-Frank Act that created the CFPB imposed regulations on the collection of financial instruments, which includes credit cards. Now, this woman said that a credit card had filed suit. Had I gotten the information I wanted, I would have filed a complaint with the CFPB because this is specifically their domain, consumer finance. Also the state consumer protection bureau. I tried reporting another one of these scam artists recently and didn’t have enough information for them to proceed.
Seriously, I plan to teach the ins and outs here. You’re getting a free lesson.
So, in a nutshell, when you get one of these calls:
- Know what’s on your credit report. Check it before calling back.
- GET THEIR INFORMATION; Who is calling, Where are they (mailing address), How much do they want, When was the debt incurred (Why is always – because they think they can get money out of you)
- Tell them you want everything in writing. It’s your right.
- If they threaten (arrest is a favorite, legal action, sometimes bodily harm), report that as well. It’s a violation of the FDCPA.
- Don’t be afraid to push back. The “bad actors” will fold their tents at the first sign of resistance. They know they’re operating outside of the law and have no legal recourse if you fail to comply with their wishes and can face a ton of legal hassles, like heavy fines and criminal prosecution for fraud, if they persist.
Here endeth the lesson.