I'm TRYING to pay you, ya idiot!

Allright, so my credit isn’t perfect, I made some mistakes in the past, but I’m trying to make up for them.

So today, I tracked down an old debt of mine that I had almost forgot I had. It took about an hour to figure out who’s handling it - a bunch of semiliterates called “ARS collections”. How this company stays in business I have no idea. Who the hell is going to pay them if they won’t send you a bill?

That’s all I asked for. Politely. “I’m going to have to ask for something in writing. No, I don’t have a fax”. Apparently snail mail is unworkable for these guys, which makes me slightly suspicious. Why are they refusing me a paper trail that’s an original? When I encountered such unexpected resistance to this reasonable request, I jokingly told them they could bill me for the stamp. The guy called me a “jerk” and hung up on me.

A collection agency hung up on me. Amused by this, I called back and got the same shit from his manager. A collection agency hung up on me… twice! I called a third time and they refused to answer. That’s right, a collection agency is avoiding my phone calls. Aparently, people find unsolicited telephone calls annoying. Who knew?

I wasn’t even being rude to 'em; I was too damn amused by the absurdity of it all. So now, I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do. I want to pay the debt, but I don’t throw money around without a clear paper trail. That’s what got me into trouble in the first place.

I think you found one of The Answers to Life’s questions. Bravo.

You’ll probably see something in the mail soon, unless they were too idiotic to get your current address.

This (sortof) happened to me once - for some reason, all my bills got lost in the mail one month. I called each of my utilities, explained to them that the bill got lost and I never received it, and asked them how much I owed so I could pay it. Three out of four had no problem with this, but the fourth acted like I was asking for her to slay her firstborn child.

Um, through no fault of my own, I didn’t get the bill. I’m making the effort to track you down and find out how much I owe so I can pay it on time - what part of this is beyond the scope of what you are willing to do for a customer? After much wrangling, she finally told me how much I owed that month. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have wasted any time on her - I would have asked to speak to her supervisor immediately. Of course, if her supervisor was a dick too, then I guess I wouldn’t be paying that bill that month.

Think: If they don’t tell you how much you owe, then you won’t pay them. Then you’ll be delinquent and they can charge you a late fee, call the entire debt, shove your interest rate through the roof or all three, as the case permits.

No wonder they didn’t want to tell you. :wink:

Is there any way you could arrange to pay this debt to the party to which it is actually owed? I guess if I were you I’d be really tempted to just call that company and tell them exactly what you told us here. Perhaps they’d even be willing to settle the debt outside of the collection agency, if that’s at all possible. They also might like to go through a new collection agency from now on.

You are completely right to demand a paper trail, but now that they won’t provide one, it’s up to you to document, document, document. You could get their address and write to them, demanding a statment of what you owe, how much of it is principal and how much is interest, etc. They will often tack on exhorbitant interest fees which you are not necessarily obligated to pay (collection agencies should negotiate with you).

But be careful about what you do put in writing, as you might have some other options, and though choosing them may be more of a moral question than anything, if you want to do so, it might not be in your best interest to acknowledge the debt in writing at this juncture. Even though you freely admit that you owe the original debt, you may not legally have to pay it if the statute of limitations for collection on that type of debt has expired. If, for instance, this was a credit card debt, in Georgia the law is:

If this debt turns out to be out of statute and they continue to be uncooperative, one thing you could do is send them a letter and tell them that you are refusing to pay anything because the statute has expired. OR, you could calculate, to the best of your knowledge and ability, the amount you owed at the time you defaulted, send a check for that amount without written acknowledgement of liability, just the check. Then, if they come after you for the rest, demand that they cease collection efforts due to the expired statute rule. That way you satisfy your conscience that you paid the original debt, but you legally don’t have to pay anything further. More on out-of-statute debt collection here, and for Georgia, specifically, here.

However, if you do decide to pursue any of these options, I’d stronly suggest that you contact an attorney to be certain of your rights and obligations before proceeding, as I am not an attorney and any or all of this information could be incorrect or out-of-date.

You might also want to consider copying the 3 major credit reporting agencies on any correspondence you do send, so that any disputed amounts (such as excessive interest), and your efforts to pay this debt will show up on your credit report.

Good luck!

Send a registered letter to the company, demanding proof of the validity of the debt. They legally have thirty days to provide you with proof. If they cannot, or will not do so, you can have the items removed from your credit.

Debt collection agencies hang up on people ALL of the time. The collector’s goal is to get your money, NOW. Not in a few days, not in a few weeks. He has a quota to meet, and there are 3 days left to meet it. Now that he has found his debtor, he has no intention of waiting until next month to get your payment.

I also have an old thread that I started for general debt collection questions:

You might find a bit more info there.


Thanks, everybody. Though I haven’t decided exactly what my next move is going to be, all the advice given so far has been exceptional.

I would never pay a collection agency anyway. Always pay the original creditor.

A lawyer told me this one to use, to cover your ass if nothing else.


In Georgia, you are allowed to do so without informing the other party.

Then look up the state the agency is in and check their laws. (Use a free phone consult to an attorney if you have any questions)

This way, if you call them 3 times without using threats or profanity, you have a pretty damn good case for disputing it on your credit report. If they refuse to work with you, they aren’t allowed to arbitrarily snipe your credit score.

This isn’t always an option. We had a portion of a hospital bill that we had never received a bill for–and the hospital, after sending one statement out, sent it to a collection agency. We were flabbergasted to be contacted by this agency when we thought we’d paid everything, and called the hospital and confirmed that there had only ever been one attempt on their part to let us know we owed, etc. “So,” we say, “now that we know, of course we’ll take care of it.” And we send them the money.

And the collection agency kept calling. We chased down folks at the hospital who could confirm to them that we’d paid, and learned that whoever had said we could just pay the hospital had been wrong–once it had gone to the collection agency, it was the collection agency that had to be paid. It was ages convincing the collection agency to stop calling us, mainly because it was ages convincing the hospital that we had in fact paid the debt that had gone to the collection agency and not some other debt, and they should confirm this with the agency. So don’t assume that paying the original debtor is the best thing to do.

If they’re anything like the collection companies I’ve dealt with, they have no original documentation of the debt, they’ve bought the debt from someone who bought it from someone who bought it from the original creditor, and along the way any actual proof of the debt was lost. Now the collection company just has a computer file with your personal information, how much you owe, and possibly who you originally owed it to.

If this is a significant debt, it’s definitely worth your money to hire a lawyer who represents debtors (call your local bar association for a referral). It’ll cost you a few hundred dollars, but I bet they can make the debt disappear, so if it’s a large amount, I’d say go for it.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law, so it applies in every state. And it is really tough. I’ve heard it said that it is practically impossible not to violate it. This is especially true of these collection agencies - you’ve seen the level of competence they display.

In any case, if you do wind up paying it, I wouldn’t pay without having an ironclad method of proving that you did so.

Good luck!

Not always an option. From time to time I send people to collection. If they then contact me wanting to pay, I say no thanks. If they pay me I still owe the collection agency their cut. Why should I be the one who figures out the math and sends them a check?

Me , too. I send patient accounts to collections and after that, I wash my hands of it. They want to pay, they need to contact the collection agency to take care of it. Of course, we make at least four attempts to collect the debt, as well as sending a certified letter releasing the patient and letting them know its going to a collections agency.