Sunday, May 23, 2010

How to Deal with one or more Collection Agencies

A couple of years ago, I received a letter in the mail from a company called Northland Group Inc., stating that I owe their client, Capital One, money from an overcharged credit card. Out of first glance, the letter didn't look official. Why? It looked like they didn't spend the time to print the letter on an official letterhead. (I've done enough photocopying to know what a document would look like after being photocopied multiple times. The fuzzy pixels was standing out like a sore thumb on certain parts of the letter.)

First of all, I do have a Capital One credit card, and the account number wasn't the same as the one they were claiming on the letter. (But somehow they have my information). Secondly, I barely even used the card, and checking my account's activity via web, proved that the full amount they allowed me on my card was still untouched.

So I do what I assumed some people would, I typed up a letter, printed it on really nice paper, stating that the information they sent me was false, and that I am disputing their claim, and that they have 30 days according to the "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act", to correct, or remove the claim, or face the consequences. Guess what happened? I didn't receive any response letter from them after that. Below is the first letter I received from them. (I have blurred important information for privacy and protection purposes).

So after 3 years, a company, calling themselves, First National Collection Bureau, Inc. (I apologize for not being able to find their website, apparently every time I type in their company's name, there's a whole bunch of scam/rip-off reports on them, made by almost everyone they've contacted). Anyways, they sent me a very suspicious looking letter, claiming the exact same thing that the Northland Group Inc. stated years earlier. They claimed that I owe their original creditor, Capital One, money. Other than my name and address located near the top part of the letter, it didn't really state who, specifically the letter was for. I went to a design school, so when I saw the layout of the letter, and how it was written, red flags started to wave wildly in my head. It was definitely a scam.

They stated in the letter, "This is to advise you that your delinquent account has been assigned to our office for collection by the above mentioned client. Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid." (Exact same quote from the letter). At the bottom part of the letter, they have a "detachable coupons" section, that you can use, to send in payments after you give them your credit card information. (I know this sounds rhetorical, but do I look stupid? Hahaha, to those who say "yes".)

Just like before, I sent them the same letter I sent to the Northland Group Inc., disputing their claim. I figured, "If they're trying to scam me out of my hard earned money, I might as well let them know, I'm not an easy prey."

Below is the second letter I received from another collection agency claiming the same thing as the previous collection agency.

About a month later, I received another letter from yet again, another collection agency. This time they call themselves, Zenith Acquisition Corp. Now, at this time, I was really confused. I took a look at all the previous letters I've received from all these collection agencies, and not once did they seem to connect with each other. How were they getting my information and sending me all these false claims, stating that I owe their, "supposed client, Capital One" money?

I took a look at Zenith's letter, and they stated, "We are in receipt of your correspondence. Please be advised that Zenith Acquisition Corp. has put this account in a hold status, while we obtain validation of the debt." Instead of receiving a letter from First National Collection Bureau, Inc., that they have handed my claim over to Zenith, I guess I was suppose to "assume" that, whatever was going on, didn't need to be explained thoroughly, instead, just ignore it and give in.

I grew up having the mentality of not giving people an easy option of getting what they want. I believe, "You have to earn it." So I decided to do a little research on Zenith, (after finding out that they had a misspelled word in their letter - which I've highlighted in yellow), that doesn't really give them a very good credibility to whether or not they're a legitimate company. What I found was interesting. Just like the previous agencies I've mentioned earlier, Zenith seemed to be doing some scamming on people who had never opened an account with a credit card company, or had paid the debt, but were still getting pursued.

Below is the third letter I received, having to deal with the same issue: owing Capital One money.

I've seen it on local news, where a lot of "companies" would pop out of nowhere, sounding as if they're the real deal, and trying to steal important information from people over the phone (such as their personal information, and their credit card number), claiming that the money they owe had to be paid in partial to full amounts, or they would face legal consequences. If I didn't know any better, I'd probably freak out, and give my card number right away, but yet again, money is really hard to come by these days, so even if they were persuasive, I still had to do some questioning and research.

I decided to write a nice letter to Capital One, requesting that they give me information on my "supposed account" I owed money to, and guess what they said? The account has been sold to North Star Acquisitions (a company in which I can't even find a legitimate website to, and seems to also-be-known-as Zenith Acquisitions Inc.). How conveniently suspicious.

Below is the response letter Capital One sent me a couple of days after I sent them a request letter:

Since Zenith showed more legitimate information on their site, I decided to give them a call. This was around 4PM on a week day around early May. Apparently their hours weren't suppose to be closed until an hour or so after 4PM.

So I left a message, something along the line of this: "Hello, I'm calling in regards to account __________, and would like to know the current status, since I sent in a letter disputing your incorrect, and possibly a false claim. If you get this message, please call me back immediately, at ___________."

The next day, around 9AM, I received 3 back-to-back calls from Zenith. I was working, and was NOT in the mood to set my time aside to answer the calls, so a guy left me 2 messages, (it sounded like he was reading from a sheet of paper, because he left the SAME message on my voice mail twice).

He said, "Hi, this is J-, I'm returning your call as you requested in regards to your account, if you're looking to find a way to pay back the debt you owe, I would love to set up a payment option with you, again, we are a collection agency, and would like to tell you that this is a call to attempt to collect debt. Please call me back at __________, thank you." (I'm not going to be stating his name, just so he won't get harassed, or worse, get any hurt feelings.)

I just can't believe that he never answered my question. Instead, he just stated that I owe money, and maybe setting up a payment option? Oh, please. Learn to listen before you assume. So out of my frustration, I went online and did further research on how to handle "no-so-legitimate collection agencies". I stumbled on eHow: How to know if a collection agency is valid.

A couple of people recommended that I take a look at the company's chamber of commerce, and see if they were a registered member. If they're not found there, then check the Better Business Bureau, and see their rating. Since Zenith was located in Amherst, New York, I went to the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, and couldn't find any information on them. (As you can see, I was on th last page, and there was no Zenith). However, I did find something on the better business bureau site, and their rating was not very shocking to me, in the least.

This didn't comfort me, instead, all it did, was make me angry. Zenith was the reason why I wasn't eligible to borrow a loan. Even after all the years of building up my credit, one STUPID false report caused a huge blockage to any future plans I have. I wasn't going to let this go easily. I went back to Zenith Acquisition's website, and sought out any other flaws they might have. They claimed that they were a part of the American Collection Association International, a site in which I think is a huge hub where everyone goes to learn how to scam people and profit money. But hey, it works, and they are definitely a member of it.

So how did the story end? I waited 3 days before returning the call to the guy who left the message on my phone. When the gentleman picked up the call, (he sounded like he was fresh out of high school- so young!), I gave him my account number (never giving him or telling him my name). He never even asked, I guess he didn't care. This is how the conversation went:

ME: "Hi, I'm calling in regards to account

J-: "Is this in regards to making a payment?"

ME: "No, I assume you guys received my letter
disputing your false claims? I left you a message
several days ago, requesting to know the status
of the, what, 'hold account' as you stated in your

J-: "Let me see, *PAUSE*, we did receive a letter
from you, and yes your account is currently on

ME: "You know you have 30 days to validate the
claim you made on my false account."

J-: "I'm sorry miss, but this account is legitimate-
just for the fact that you opened the account with
Capital One, and it shows here that there has been
some payments made on the account, so you can't
just claim that this is a false account."

ME: "J- is it?"

J-: "Yes."

ME: "I have a question for you."

J-: "Yes?"

ME: "Is your company registered under the Amherst
Chamber of Commerce?"

J-: "What?"

ME: "You're located in Amherst, New York, right?"

(then the phone line went dead quiet for about 2 minutes)

Different gentleman spot to me on the other line and J- was nowhere to be heard.

T-: "Hello? Hi, this is T-, we are registered in
under Amherst Chamber of Commerce."

ME: "Oh? What's your rating on the better business

T-: "We are an A rating Mame."

ME: "Really? I'm looking at it right now, and it
doesn't look that way to me. Unless you're trying
to say I'm illiterate, or blind, but I'm definitely
seeing a letter F. If you'd like to dispute that, I'd
like to see a print out of your 'A' rated fact sheet"

T-: "Okay. I don't know where you're getting the
information, but since I checked last, I saw an A."

ME: "Okay, then I'd like to know, when will I be
getting validation on my request on the account
you're claiming I owe?"

T-: "It shows here, *PAUSE*, we received your letter
April 2, 2010, and have sent out orders April 12, 2010,
and it should be arriving to you soon."

ME: "How will I know when I'll receive it?"

T-: "What usually happens is, we send out a request to
Capital One to obtain all the paperworks necessary for
this dispute you've made. We make a copy of it, and
then another copy for you, and that copy will be sent in
the mail for you. You still live at __________, correct?"

ME: "Yes. The law does state that you have 30 days to
send me the requested documents, and if it's past 30
days, you have to remove any false information you
have on the credit report."

T-: "We know, tell you what, call us back a week from now,
and we'll definitely have it, if not it should be on it's way."

ME: "Okay, thank you."

T-: "No, thank you." *HANGS UP*

About a week and one day later, I called Zenith Acquisition up again. Stupid me, I forgot to ask this different gentleman, his name. I gave him my account number, and asked him what was the current status of my claim and the paperworks that have been ordered. This guy obviously sounded like he didn't know what I was talking about, or didn't comprehend what his job really meant, so he asked if I could hold on the line. I agreed, and around 10 to 15 minutes have passed, my patience was getting less and less manageable. After 15 minutes had past, suddenly a familiar voice came one the line.

This was how the second conversation since the previous week started:

J-: "Hello?"

ME: "Hi, so what's the status on my account."

J-: "What account? Who is this?"

My temper suddenly gave way, and I was seeing red.

ME: "What the f--- do you mean 'who is this?'?! I was put
on hold for more than 10 minutes, so that dumb f--- could
go and check on the status of my account! Then you come
on the line, and give me jack s---."

J-: "I'm sorry, but this is the first time I got you on this line-"

ME: "Is this J-?!" (I could recognize his voice.)

J-: "Yes it is."

ME: "Oh. Oh, good. Well, this is _______. I called a week ago,
and I talked to you in regards to my account."

J-: "Uh huh."

ME: "Before we go any further, take out a sheet of paper and
something to write with, you know, anything that is legible to
the eye, unless you're blind. Or how about this, let's type it in,
t-y-p-e, onto the keyboard, so we can get past this faster, what
do you think?"

J-: "Okay."

ME: "The number is (I literally annunciated each and every
number out to him as if he didn't understand English). Would
you like me to repeat it? I mean, I have all day."

J-: "No, I got it, thanks." (I could hear the annoyance in his voice.)

ME: "So? Quit being mute, tell me what the hell is going on
with my account."

J-: "We ordered the documents as of April 12. So it should be
arriving shortly."

ME: "You guys said that last time. What is today, if you don't
mind me asking?"

J-: "May 21."

ME: "What year?"

J-: "2010."

ME: "Good. When was the documents ordered?"

J-: "April 12."

ME: "What year, again?"

J-: "2010."

ME: "So it's the same year?"

J-: "Yes."

ME: "So, since April 12, 2010 and today, May 21, 2010, how
many days has it been?"

J-: "I don't know."

ME: "What the f---, do you mean, 'I don't know?' Can't you
do a simple math problem? How many days on average is
in a month?"

J-: "30."

ME: "Good, so do the math."

J-: "I don't know."

ME: "You need to f---ing go back to high school if you can't
do that math in your head."

J-: "I graduated from college, thank you very much."

ME: "Oh really? Me too."

J-: "And I have a degree."

ME: "Wow, aren't we smart. Who's your manager right now?"

J-: "G.Z."

ME: "Go tell him I want to speak with him, N.O.W, now!

J-: "He's on the phone."

ME: "I don't give a f---, you go and tell him, that there's a b----,
that needs to speak to his fake a-- now."

J-: *Covers the mouth piece of the phone, mumbles to the

Then my phone went quiet for a few minutes.

J-: "H- told me that your account needs to be closed because
back in 2002 to 2004, a lot of Vietnamese people got their
identity stolen, and you were one of them."

ME: "So you disregarded my dispute, reported some damaging
information on my credit report, and now saying that it's all
your fault?"

J-: "We're going to remove it now, just let me write up what H-
told me."

ME: "I'm assuming you'll be sending me a letter stating all this?"

J-: "Yes, we're sorry about this."

ME: "Sorry I told you to go back to school."

J-: "Same here, sorry it got out of hand." *PAUSE* (I heard some
typing in the background, and him talking to someone in the
background). Okay, you should be receiving a letter in the mail
in a couple of days."

ME: "So if I were to check my credit report, this false report
will be removed?"

J-: "Yes."

ME: "Okay, thanks." *HUNG UP*

So as of now, I'm currently waiting for the letter to arrive. I don't believe I should be courteous towards people who don't know what they're talking about, and seem to try and cheat me out of facts. I didn't mean to give J- such a hard time, but he didn't help represent the company very well, especially when I asked him simple questions. He couldn't even hold his temper! If anyone has or is dealing with this kind of situation, I highly recommend you visit the Federal Trade Commission, and try to protect your credit scores from any information that has been reported incorrectly. Know your rights, and know that you can do something about it. I will update the result to the ending of this chapter- soon!