Have You Ever Received A Collections Letter?

by Ron Haynes

Collections letters are designed for one thing: to collect a debt. How a collections letter does that is through fear, intimidation, and sometimes through threats. If you’re the victim of collections scumbags that send you a barrage of letters or call incessantly on the phone, you do have rights. Federal Law outlines what rights you do have and believe me, bill collectors regularly violate your rights. I know … I was a collections agent for a major bank.

Almost twelve years ago, my son was born. We had great medical insurance with only a $300 deductible. After the joy of seeing that little bundle, I went down to the hospital’s "business office" (sounds official doesn’t it?) to settle up because, after all, I didn’t want to end up in collections. I knew I would owe the $300 plus another $20 bucks or so for the TV which wasn’t covered by insurance.

As I sat at the desk, the accounting clerk told me, "We aren’t sure what the exact final number will be until you check out so can we just send the bill to you?" I replied I didn’t like that idea and I was willing to pay $350 just to make certain I would pay the whole bill. Her reply was that it would be an accounting "nightmare" for them and it would be best if I let them bill me. I insisted, but she insisted more. OK. Bill me.

We came home a day later and I told my wife that we would be receiving a bill from the hospital and to pay it right away. "Do not wait to pay it. Write the check and send it the same day we receive the bill," I told her. I was in an "improve my credit score" mode of thinking at the time.

A couple of weeks later we received a notice from our insurance company that they had paid all but $321. I told my wife that we should be receiving the hospital bill any day. We never did.

Fast forward about 9 or 10 months and on a beautiful spring day I came home for lunch and checked the mail. Lo and behold there was a collections letter saying that I was delinquent and that my account had been turned over to a debt collection agency.The next step I took was critical in saving my credit score: I called the hospital, NOT the collections agency.

I asked for the "business office." When the accounts receivable manager come on the line I told her who I was and that I had never received a bill from them. I repeated the entire story. She called me a liar. She claimed that the hospital had sent 4 bills and asked me to verify my address. I said, "Your collections letter made it. Don’t you think you have the address?" She said it was very interesting that I never responded to the bills but suddenly responded to a collections letter. "Yes, it is interesting. All you had to do was press 7 buttons on a phone and you could have had FULL payment, lady! NOW, you’re accepting half a payment from a collections agency. THAT’S STUPID!" I was yelling into the phone at this point.

She then told me that their office does not make any phone calls for amounts under $500. "Oh, I see," I said, " You just hand them off without any real attempts to collect them. Don’t you realize the amount of money you’re giving up? One person could call on amounts under $500 and pay for themselves by collecting only 3 accounts per week."

I told this "manager" that I would rot in my grave before I would EVER pay ANY collections agency. She would never in a thousand lifetimes ever receive a single cent from me via the collections agency, BUT if she would pull it from them, I would happily give her my credit card number and pay the account in full today. She said in a very condescending tone, "Do you have it available NOW?" I did and gave her the number.

In my own condescending tone I left her with, "Wasn’t that easy? See, Ms Manager, you just made an extra $160.50 with one little phone call. How many more people’s credit score gets ruined because you don’t have the time to press 7 buttons on phone?" She, of course, had no comment. Typical.

If you find yourself getting turned over to a collections agency, I recommend that you REFUSE to pay the agency. Call your original creditor and beg to continue making payments to THEM alone. Tell them this is the only way they will receive money from you and that you want to pay your bill in full eventually.

Here are my recommendations when dealing with original bill collectors (I don’t deal with debt collection agencies, remember?):

  • Always pay something. Do not try to run from your debt. It doesn’t work.
  • Talk to the bill collectors only when you’re ready. Debt collectors will call you at inopportune times to catch you off guard.
  • If you tell a collector to NOT call you, they cannot. Put it in writing, though and send it to that collector directly via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. That way you have proof that the collector received your letter. Send it to the bill collector and the boss as well.
  • If you tell a collector to call you at home, but not at work, they absolutely cannot call you at work. Again, put it in writing and send it to that collector directly via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.
  • Keep in mind that most collectors are usually young, inexperienced, underpaid, and woefully under-trained in the law and in anything else. They probably took this job believing they were getting into a “financial field” and would have some upward mobility. Ahh, youth.

I was a debt collector at one time

I was a collector on mobile home payments and I stunk at it. I had too much compassion and empathy for people who were struggling I guess. I also had learned of some of the tactics mobile home salespeople and “finance guys” would use to up-sell people into a larger, more expensive mobile home and then 8 months later, wind up losing it to repossession. By then the paper had been sold to Greentree Financial.

During the short time (10 months) I worked at this horrible job, I learned how collections work and how collectors think. To the average collector, everyone’s a deadbeat. Under the breath threats on the phone are common. I personally heard other guys threaten to physically kick people out of their homes. Clue: it takes a lawsuit and a sheriff’s deputy to do that. We used to send mobile home trucks out to these trailers and knock on the doors or even act like we were getting ready to hitch it to the truck. Talk about using fear? The problem is that it usually worked so it became a continuous practice.

Virtually every single thing you say is recorded, either audibly or via a shorthand that collectors use. If I called someone’s work and left a message, the account would have an entry PBLWTC Sarah. That stands for “phoned business left word to call with Sarah.” PRNA – phoned residence no answer. PRSPWMKRPTP1107 was phoned residence spoke with maker who promised to pay by November 7. NPMTRECAP – no payment received as promised. PRMKREXHU – phones residence maker used expletives and I hung up. Everything is recorded and is used against you should your account go before a judge. The lesson? Be professional, calm, and only answer the phone when you’re ready to talk. And keep your promises.

The biggest key is to refuse, absolutely REFUSE, to be intimidated and never allow your original creditor to turn your account over to a collections agency.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1003 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


If you enjoyed what you just read and would like to get FREE email updates with the freshest articles from The Wisdom Journal delivered right to your inbox, subscribe today! It's ridiculously easy and you can unsubscribe at any time. Since your email address is never sold or abused, you can subscribe with confidence, PLUS you'll get free reports/guides/eBooks, subscriber only benefits, and other perks.


{ 10 comments }

Tyson

I never thought of refusing to pay the agency. Back when I was having a tough time financially, we would have collection calls nightly and at work. Rude, inconsiderate and forceful. It was hard to have a conversation like that in front of your kids as well. I wish I knew this back then, would have made my life a lot easier. Now, I dont have to worry….debt collectors cant call when you have no debt!

Thanks for the post!
Tyson

Ron

It works!Your mileage may vary, but there have sheen several people I know who have employed this tactic. Even Dave Ramsey advises it.

Super Frugalette

I was called by a collection agency for a hospital bill that I had already paid! They were very forceful and telling me that I was going to have to pay it again because I hadn’t written the invoice number on the check.

Ron

You have GOT to be kidding me. What a bunch of morons.

Chowdary

I have exact same problem explained on the article. But in my case it is with ambulance service. I was told by my insurance company that I should pay for it. I have no problem with that. But the bill never came. After 2 yrs, I received letter from collection agents. And the first name refferred in that letter is completely wrong. Also address on that letter don’t had the apartment #. By looking at the first name printed on the letter and mistakes on address, I first thought this is some scam or fraud mail. Good that I saw this article. I will try to follow what is suggested here.

But I have question: If I refuse to pay the collection agency, will my credit history be ruined? what if the original creditor don’t accept pay from me directly? Please suggest…

Ron

Contact the ambulance service and tell them to pull this one from the collections agency and that you’ll pay 100% of it. Be nice and be friendly and explain the situation. If no one will let you, ask to speak with their boss and climb your way up the corporate chain-of-command until you get someone to say yes.

Kate

Great blog. Thanks for the info!

What are your rights as a consumer if the company who turned you over never sent a late notice – or any kind of notice – that they were about to turn you over…and you find out you’ve been turned over (2 yrs later) by receiving a collection notice? This was an energy bill I plain forgot about when we moved to a different city. They sent the final invoice out Feb. 2009. I have no idea if I received it or not at this point. But I do know that I did not receive any kind of communication such as a late notice or threat to turn me over. My credit is very good and I intend to keep it that way.

I want to say that the company turning you over has some obligation to inform you they’re going to do so…am I wrong?

Also, when I called the energy company, they said they can’t do anything now that it’s been turned over. Is that incorrect? I’ll contact the corporate office if need be to handle it the way your blog suggests.

Thank you!

Ron

It’s my understanding that companies aren’t required to send late notices. Most have that clause written into their agreements that consumers sign when they agree to receive services (remember that fine print?). That being said, depending on the amount, which probably isn’t that much, I would do exactly what you said: continue up the corporate ladder until you get the answer you want. Beg and plead. Then ask to speak to someone in higher authority if you don’t get the answer you want. In the meantime, I would contact the collection agency and dispute, dispute, dispute. Make them prove you owe the bill, then dispute some more … all in writing, certified mail, return receipt requested. I would use the phrase “This does not match my records” since you never received any sort of notice of monies owed. That’s how I would handle it.

If you can find out the amount they turned over to collections, I would send a check with your account number on it to their accounts receivable department. If that check gets deposited, you should be off the hook. Just tell the collectors that you have a cancelled check that paid off the amount in total. If the company returns the check to you, send it back, again and again until someone deposits it.

Kate

Thank you for the reply, Ron. My apologies for such a late response.

I filed a complaint with the GA Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection. They told me there wasn’t much they could do, as it isn’t a law to notify people before hand. However the complaint did get to the corporate office because they called me to discuss.

Not so long story short, he understood where I was coming from and explained that this new aging tracking system just spit everyone who had a balance and they were sent to collections. He did say that they do have a notification system in place now, which wasn’t in place when I first received a collections notice. I still had to pay the collection agency (he swore he couldn’t do a thing, and the lure of collecting 100% of the money owed vs splitting with the collection co. couldn’t sway him), but at least I was heard. I think that was more important to me than anything.

Thanks again!

April

Thanks for the post! This just happened to me. I have been working with them for 6 months to bill my insurance and have a list of all the times I called them. I never got a bill but got a notice from collections so they clearly have my new address. I will be calling the hospital first thing in the morning! Thanks again.

Previous post:

Next post: