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The following is the contact information for the three major credit reporting bureaus:
– Equifax: (800) 525-6285
– Experian (formerly TRW): (888) EXPERIAN, (888) 397-3742
– Trans Union1 (800) 680-7289
If the dispute over the completeness or accuracy of the entry is not resolved to your satisfaction, you should write a consumer statement of 100 words or less stating the nature of the dispute. The consumer reporting agency must then include the statement in all future reports. Information that is older than seven years, or 10 years in the case of judgments and bankruptcies, must be deleted from your file.
Collection agencies work on behalf of the creditor to recuperate the amounts owed by debtors. It is important to understand that the agency’s interests lie with your creditor and not with you. It is also important to understand that these agencies are highly professional and experienced in dealing with debtors.
Collection agencies get a percentage of debt collected. They may charge other fees for the time they put in, so they tend to be aggressive. A few may go overboard, which can work in your interest. There are legal constraints on the actions permitted of collection agencies. If they do act illegally you can sue or threaten action and get a renegotiation of the terms of your debt. Creditors understand this, and you must refer all unethical action of a collection agency to your creditor as well as to state or federal agencies that govern the activities of these agencies.
If you have a legitimate dispute with a creditor, make sure the collection agency knows the details of this. A number of agencies will not wish to deal with consumers with legitimate complaints against creditors. The collection agency is interested in recouping as much of the moneys owed as possible. But they and your creditor both realize that it may not be possible to recover 100 percent of the amount owed. Understand that you are in a bargaining position to the extent that the collection agency can convince your creditor to accept some fraction of the outstanding debt if this is within your means, and if you can make this payment over a shorter period or even in a lump sum. You will have to make a convincing case regarding your inability to repay the creditor.
If you are not working, send letters to your creditors and the collection agency explaining your situation and promising to set up a reasonable payment plan as soon as you get a job. If you have a job or if you get one, call every creditor and collector and tell them that you want to honor your debt. Determine ahead of time what you can afford to pay. Do not agree to a payment you know you cannot honor. If your creditor agrees to your payment proposal, fine. If not, send the payment anyway and make sure you send it every month without fail. Send by money order, not check. This will show good faith and reduce your bill. If this fails, you may wish to seek assistance from a local non-profit credit counseling service. You can formally request that a collection agency stop contacting you. After this, they are obligated to stop and may only contact you specifically to:
1. Note termination of collection procedure
2. Note specific impending formal action against you such as a lawsuit.
Behavior Forbidden of Collection Agencies By Law
To prevent abuse and overly aggressive behavior, the law forbids certain actions by collection agencies. A collection agency or its employees may not:
– Contact you at inopportune times. They must not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
– Contact you at your place of employment if your working situation forbids this.
– Use harassing or abusive language in communication with you. This includes obscenity or clearly offensive language.
– Threaten to embarrass or publicly defame you or any other friends or relatives of yours.
– Make the nature and status of your debt public.
– Misrepresent themselves as anything other than what they are. They may not mislead you into believing they are agents of law enforcement or state or federal government.
– Make threats implying intended action that it does not intend to take. The agency must be precise about whatever legal action it proposes to take against you.Contact a third party except to determine your location. They may not contact a particular third party more than once unless the third party requests it or if the third party gives erroneous information to the collection agency.
– Inform a third party of your debt or of their status as a collection agency. Communication that divulges the nature of your debtor status is illegal.
– Intentionally make calls at your expense, e.g. through collect calls.
– Alter your outstanding debt by adding fees and interest charges foreign to your initial contract with the creditor or not mandated by law.
– Request a check from you post-dated by more than five days unless they inform you in sufficient time prior to depositing the check. This information must be given between three and ten days before check is deposited.
It is not uncommon for collection agencies to break a number of the laws described above. If you experience any of these, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission at (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357) or the State Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210.