Dealing with collection agencies.

I have some general questions on dealing with collection agencies. My sister has gotten herself into some hot water with some collection agencies. I’ve never dealt with them before* so I have no idea what to tell her. I know they’ve been calling a lot and I’ve told her to only tell them to prove the debt and only deal through the mail.

However, I’ve told her that I could help her out a bit. She’s sent me the phone numbers and account numbers so that I could call them, but I don’t want to call them and have them know my phone numbers and such.

Is there a way to get the bills without having them ever call me? Do collection agencies take credit cards? Not that I’d want to pay that way but it is an idea. Is it a bad idea for me to contact them at all? It’s not my debt in any way, but I’ve heard how ruthless they can try and be.

Any other tips would be good as well. I thought about putting this in IMHO so if it get’s moved then so be it.

*When my mother died some company called me and told me I’d have to pay, I told them where they could stick it.

Good place to start: Debt Collection FAQs | Consumer Advice

If they get your number, they can start calling you.

Nor can you represent her, unless you’re a lawyer or have a POA in certain cases.

If your sister is an adult, the agency will probably not even talk to you unless you affirm that you will be responsible for the debt. Which I suggest you do NOT do unless you are prepared to pay the debt or be hounded for it.

Is your sister disputing the debt? The collection agency should have included the method of disputing a claim in the letter they sent to her. They do have to prove the debt and supply documentation upon written request, which she should request at the same time she disputes the debt (which should have been done within 30 days of their letter). All of that should be in their written communications to her. Has she done that? And when she does send the letter, she should send it Registered and Return Receipt Requested and keep a copy! She also might put in her letter of dispute that, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they are not allowed to contact her again about the alleged debt until they provide the proof of the original debt.

N.B. I am a lawyer but I am not your or your sister’s lawyer or anyone’s lawyer. I am probably not even licensed to practice in whatever state you’re in. Be advised that this is an anonymous message board, you get what you pay for and I could be lying, and conduct yourself accordingly.

My sister is an adult, 20, but decided to really run with what little money she had. Then I guess she ran up about 2400 bucks in debt. She has some money in a bank and I was going to pay her bills with that, what I wanted was to contact the agencies, get the bills and just pay them. Now I see that’s not what I should be doing. I’ll have her send me the bills and send a money order. I really don’t want to get in the middle of this, and I think I’ll stay out of it.

I’m confused - you’re going to pay her bills with her money - and have her send you the bills and the money orders?

Why is it she can’t pay them herself?

As far as the collection calls - they’re going to love her “yes, I owe the debt and would like to pay it” - seems to be the easiest thing in the world - she can even pick and choose which ones get attention first - and simply ‘ignore’ the rest of the calls - pay attention to the mailed letters and file them until she can act on them, and if she’s actually served papers for a court date she can put that one higher on the priority list (and respond accordingly).

When my mother died she was 15, when she turned 18 she inherited a good amount of money, of which she spent in less then a year. She was able to also get Social Security, of which she doesn’t know about. So she has money, but in an account at my work with both our names on it.

I thought that I could just have her send me the bills, I would go to the bank and get money orders and send them in for her. I don’t want to send her a check for the full amount otherwise I’m pretty sure it would never get paid off.

What I had thought about doing was have her give me the accounts and the phone numbers, I would have them send me the bills. However, it seems I can’t do that as I’m not a lawyer and I really don’t want creditors calling me. So now I will have her send me whatever bills there are, I would take money out of her (really our) account to pay off these bills.

My sister lives a state away so I don’t see her much, she doesn’t have a car that can get here, and we have little ones so going there is hard. I don’t want to tell her that she’s got money put away because she’ll spend it, but I don’t want to get caught up in her affairs either. There’s a 17 year difference between us so with mom died I took care of everything.

ETA: My sister has no job, well at least not one that pays more then enough to get by on. She can’t afford to pay them off at all.

Anyone can pay anyone else’s accounts - it’s taking money out or changing service that gets tricky. I agree with you not wanting to get your name, phone number, or address associated with your sister’s delinquent accounts - I usually work in accounting departments, and some will make a note of you and your information. If the collection agencies are already calling, they’d love to bug you, too, to pester your sister on their behalf.

Sending a valid money order with the remittance copy of the bills sounds like the way to go - that should give them enough information to apply the money to the right account. One thing to check first, though - if it’s gone to collections, the original companies may have sold the debt, in which case you need to pay the collection agency.

It sounds like your sister is not a competent adult - is that why you are involved in this, and have kept her social security a secret?

To insulate yourself as far as contact goes, you should probably set up a Skype account if you have broadband access.

And absolutely do not give out credit card or bank account info. There are enough dishonest collection agencies out there to make this a very bad idea. Use only money orders or cashiers checks to make payments.

A friend of mine was once suffering harrassment from a collection agency. I called them and informed them that I would act as her agent. All they required was her consent over the phone.

If you are scared about them having your info call them from a phone number that is not your own. Explain that you will be paying in full. Trust me, they will figure out a way to work with you. Before paying, I would see if they would take the mark off your sister’s credit report.

-R. Incognito

As bad as it is to say, at the age of 20, she’s not that competent. Or rather she doesn’t have many people to tell her the right things. I did tell her months ago that she could get the calls to stop and I think she did that. She inherited between 40-50K at the age of 18 and it was gone before she turned 19. She did at one point in time learn she was supposed to get social security, and I told her it was for her upkeep, food clothes, and such. She’s never asked about it since.

She’s starting to get better, she has just started a new job, one that will give benefits soon, over the bar tending job that might pay more up front. If she ever wanted the money it’s in both our names, she could come get it, I’ll not hold it from her, just not tell her. She said she will pay the money back so then she’ll be paying herself back.

I really think staying out of it as best as possible is what I need to do. I should call from work, as if they did call back they’d have to go through a menu, and we’re changing our numbers next week.

The other question - I have no firsthand knowledge, but I hear that collection agencies love to add “extras” on - you owe us the extra fees for chasing you down.

I don’t know how legal they are. I do know (from chasing deadbetats for a club I worked with) that is some places, if there are extra expenses like the cost of the documents filing in Small Claims court, that is added to the amount by the judge when the judgement is rendered. Not sure the agency can just say “You owe us an additional $50 for collection processing” or “you owe use $20 for a bounced cheque”. (If the bank charges them $20, it is a legitimate cost they can pass on to the debtor by presenting it with the other documents when the sue in small claims court)

I assume this is what legalsnugs refers to as getting the proper documentation for the debt - “prove the debt”.

It goes without saying that you want to keep any documentation proving you have pais the debt.

I’m assuming - Nobody is saying you can’t talk to the collection agency - just that nobody will want to talk to you unless it comes with the implication that you are going to expedite payment; they aren’t obligated to, they don’t have to prove anything to anyone except your sister (or her lawyer), and only if she asks. Otherwise, unless you help them collect, you’re just another waste of time for a busy collector.

IIRC, the collection agency makes its money because by the time the merchant passes the debt on, tehy take a loss; the collection agency keeps a percentage if they collect, and the merchant comes out with “50% of $400 is better than 100% of $0”.

Of course if your syister’s debts magically get paid, I hope she doesn’t then go out and rack up more…

Whatever you do never authorize a online checking account payment for a certain day in the future. This always works out badly. Insist that you will only send money by a printed check when it is in the account.