The first thing I recommend everyone to do is go to www.annualcreditreport.com and get a copy of your reports from each of the 3 bureaus. See what is on your report. It is best to clean up the most recent stuff because most lenders (for a home or car) are more concerned about the most recent years. Also find out what the Statue of Limitations for your state is because you do not want to pay on something that is past the SOL because then you open yourself up to pay it all. (i.e. you owe $3000 on and old credit card you start making payments and realize it was past the SOL you can now be held responsible because you started paying which restarted the SOL…at least that is how it was explained to me)I do however know you cannot have legal action taken against you on something out the is past the SOL…do not believe these collection agents who call you on things that are 10yrs old. I received a letter trying to make me a settlement offer on a $80 bill for $40. It said it was in reference to my Sprint acct. Well I am with Sprint and it’s not past due so of course I am going to call and ask what this is about. After 10 minutes of fighting an automated system I got a human on the phone. Now when I called you had to enter a phone number to look up your account. So when i got this person on the phone she again asked for my number. (probably because I had a new # and she did not have that info so nothing was coming up) so I told her I had a reference number on the letter. She asked for it and proceeds to tell me that this was a bill from Sprint long distance from 1995 (yes 13 yrs ago). I told her i was not aware of any such bill. She then began to try and get my home address, my work address, my work number, any additional phone numbers, my social security number etc. (NEVER GIVE THEM THIS INFORMATION!! I will explain in a minute why) I told her that there are too many scams these days and that none of this was anything I was familiar with and that I was not giving her a single piece of information about me until she could convince me that this was legit. She said that this bill was from when I lived at and rattled off an address that I use to live at. Now mind you at this point most people would probably think to themselves ‘oh well that is my old address this must be legit’ and would just agree to pay because it’s just $40 and not worth the hassle. I am not one of those people. I do not mind paying something I owe but I will be damned if I will pay something that isn’t. The reason that this seemed strange to me and set off a red flag is because I did live at this address but nothing in this house was ever in my name including the home. I worked for a non profit group home as a home counselor and everything in the house including the rent was in the companies name and paid by them so I knew I didn’t have a long distance bill in my name. I told her this and she said well maybe a relative got a bill in your name but you still owe it. I told her very politely I would have to do some investigating and get back with her. She told me that (another red flag) it would do me no good to contact Sprint because they had sold the account and would have no information on it. I told her I was still going to do some digging first. She told me that was fine but that they would still attempt to collect the debt, in otherwise keep calling me and that I should hurry because there was a limit on the “settlement’ offer. So I got off the phone with her and called my friend who knows all the legalities of this type of thing (collections…her family has been in repos and collections for many years). I told her the whole story. She told me to send them a certified letter requesting they send me an itemized bill from the original lender (Sprint), proof they owned the debt, proof that it was not past the Statue of Limitations and Proof that they were a licensed collection agent allowed to collect in my state (including their license # and agents name). Well first off they could not prove it was still within the SOL cause NO state has that long of a SOL.So I went on line and Googled “sample verification of debt letters” and formed my very nice very legal sounding letter with the help of these samples I found. (if you do this I really do not recommend threatening to sue them unless you truly plan on going through with it as they may call your bluff and unless they are truly harassing you…I was not as rude or blunt as some of these letters are. If you ever need an example of one of these feel free to contact me and I can send you some links or an idea of what it should sound like) I also included in the letter that they were to not contact me by phone anymore only by USPS to my legal address provided in the letter. I went made a copy of the letter they sent me and attached it to the letter (keeping a copy of my letter and theirs for myself with the certified receipt for my records) and sent it certified mail to the address provided to me for my payment. (cause I knew they would sign for and open it thinking it was money)I very quickly received a letter saying they were no longer attempting to collect the debt and they were returning it to the previous owner, some other company not Sprint. (who I have not heard from either) Now if you are still reading this thank you cause i know it is long but I really wanted to give you a good example of what some companies do and why not to do certain things. First off companies after a long time will write off or charge off a debt. That means they write it off as a loss on their taxes and no longer can collect it. They can however sell that account to a collection agency if they choose to. What happens is these collection agencies pay next to nothing for these account sometimes pennies. Then they try to hunt these people down to collect the money. Now if I buy a $100 acct for 25 cents and I send out a letter offering to close the acct for a one time payment of $40 if you pay by this date and you decide to pay me then I have made a $39.75 profit minus the cost of a stamp…not a bad deal huh. Here is the deal though these account get sold over and over and over again and these companies have no information on these debts except and amount, the name of the person who owes it and maybe their address & phone number. They have to legally prove to you what they debt is for for you to have to pay it and cannot sue you or put it on your credit report if they don’t have this proof. You can dispute these things on your credit report if they cannot prove the debt or do not validate it to the bureau within 30 days it comes off your credit. Never give them any information that they do not already have, it may not be a legit debt and they maybe trying to build a file for you. If you owe it they should have that information. And if it is a scam you certainly do not want to be giving out all of your personal info. My friend also told me that (for example)if you rented a house from someone years ago and they later go bankrupt some collection agencies will goes as far as to try to pin bills from that owner on the renter just because they use to live at that address. People will pay something just because someone says oh this is from when you lived at so and so address back in 1998…really do you remember every bill you had in your name 10 years ago? And some people would rather pay it if it is a small amount rather than worry about having it go on their credit. Here’s the thing if I have 100 people with this situation (lets say in a month) and half of them just pay it to get rid of it that is $2000 I have collected….illegally. Because people do not know their rights they will abuse their power. My best advice is to educate yourself as much as you can. I am still learn all sorts of things. I am slowly paying down my student loans and I recently got a secured credit card to try and rebuild my credit. My credit is really not great half from my ex husband and half from my lack of knowledge. Got rid of the husband which is obvious by the word ex…lol solved that problem now I am becoming educated and working on solving the other half. You’d be amazed at what brings your score up and what brings it down so do some digging and good luck!!
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