How to get rid of bogus claims from a collection agency (AFNI)
March 11, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Collection Agency hounding me again for an invalid claim, what can I do to make it go away.

Two years ago, give or take a couple of months, I got a nasty letter from a collection agency regarding a sum of about $200 that I supposedly owed Qwest for a land line.

I knew for certain that for the period the amount was for I did not even have a landlines, let alone one with Qwest.

After a lot of calling around, I finally talked to someone at Qwest who dug around, agreed that I was not the right person to make the claim to, and that they would take care of it.

That seemed to work well, but yesterday I got the same claim, from the same collection agency, in a brand new letter, that is even nastier than the previous letter.

What do I have to do, to stop the collection Agency AFNI from trying to collect from me?
Can they just keep trying even though they have been told, in writing both from me, and from Qwest that I am not the person responsible.

I know from the last go around, it is going to take significant time for me to find the right people at Qwest, and getting everything sorted out again. It seems unfair for the AFNI to be able to impose this on me every other year.
posted by digividal to Work & Money (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Write the collections agency, in a usps-certified letter, requesting written proof that you owe the debt. This will stop it.
posted by kdar at 12:27 PM on March 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Kdar is correct.

Basically the collections agency is counting on the fact that you won't question the claim and will pay up. Unless they have proof that you owe the debt, they will stop contacting you.
posted by dfriedman at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2010

What kdar said. You could also do the rigamarole with Qwest again and ask them to mail you a resolution letter. A co-worker in my office had her identity stolen and she has had to send proof of resolution from the actual company to collection agencies because sometimes they have an automated process that sends debts to different collection agencies if a debt is not collected. This will also help you clear your credit if the need arises.
posted by Kimberly at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2010

Response by poster: But I already did the thing with the collection agency, in the last round, and now they are coming after me yet again.
posted by digividal at 12:35 PM on March 11, 2010

You've told them that you're not the person responsible. But unless you've omitted it from your description, you've never put the onus on them to prove that you are the one responsible. Write a letter, sent certified mail, demanding that they produce written proof that you are the debtor and that the debt is real. The burden of proof is on them, not you and under US law (I'm assuming from your question history that you live in the US and that this is taking place in the US), they are required to either provide proof that you owe the debt or stop contacting you.
posted by decathecting at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2010

from the FTC:
Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the collector received. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.

This page has a lot of information that might be helpful to you.
posted by chris p at 12:42 PM on March 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

This Boston Globe series from a few years ago should give you some good understanding of your rights and how debt collectors work. Someone linked to this in a previous AskMe or in an FTP somewhere, and it's really worth pointing out again to the general public.

Then you can use the knowledge to your advantage.

Please pay close attention to your mail, and if there's anything about a court date, remember what you read in the "Globe" series.
posted by zizzle at 12:47 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a common scam. I got a fake collection letter from someone claiming to be collecting for Verizon. The amount was small and specific, like $42.37.

The only problem was.

1. I'm a Verizon customer in good standing.
2. I just got a bill from Verizon & the account number in the corner was not the same as the one in the collection letter.

They also had an easy-online payment system where I could enter my details + credit card number to pay the amount.

I googled around & found that other people had received the same letter.

It's a scam! Some people just pay it to make it go away. One person got it for a phone number they closed out months ago - but thought maybe they missed their last bill or something. The collection agency was a fake and they're just trying to collect credit card numbers.

This may not be the same as your issue, but I'd do the following.

1. Check your credit report to make sure this incident doesn't show up.
2. If it doesn't show up, ignore it.
3. If it does show up, leave a reply.
4. If it does show up, send a certified letter as the others above have mentioned.
posted by MesoFilter at 1:03 PM on March 11, 2010

Response by poster: Ok so I found a rather interesting link regarding the company AFNI, and how they are a well known scam company
I do not understand how such business are allowed to keep running.
posted by digividal at 2:38 PM on March 11, 2010

I'm not sure how you would shut them down, if you think it through they could do everything on the down low & avoid detection by many law enforcement types. Drop box mailing address (did you see the 3 different addresses on that letter?), out of country web hosting, etc.

Either way, I'm glad I could help you & possibly others avoid this scam.
posted by MesoFilter at 3:19 PM on March 11, 2010

I have been through this multiple times. Last time I fixed by answering as a fake business and saying "Oh, charlesv? Sorry but I am josephii. He doesn't work here any more, and they reassigned his phone to me. I think he may have retired or passed away."

If it's not on your credit report, this should be a rich source of amusement, especially if it is real people calling you and not a computer.
posted by charlesv at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2010

Not only do they have to stop contacting you (and stop reporting the debt on your credit report) after you demand proof of the debt and they fail to provide it, but my understanding of the FDCPA (or is it the FCRA?) is that you could likely collect $1000 from them if they go ahead and do it again. is a good place to look into for this kind of thing.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 4:43 PM on March 11, 2010

Clark Howard (a consumer advocate I listen to regularly on the radio) puts out a lot of really great, free information on stuff like this. Here's a link from his site:

Collection agencies are bothering me. What can I do?

There's tons more stuff available, but the FTC link takes you 'to the horses mouth' on what's allowed and what isn't, and who wouldn't want a pre-printed "drop dead" letter to send to collection agencies?
posted by Ys at 5:32 PM on March 11, 2010

How old is the debt?

Either way, send them a letter stating that they may only correspond with you through the US mail and requesting validation of the debt, including proof that you owe the debt.

If they fail to validate and continue to hound you, you can sue them in small claims for an FDCPA (fair debt collection practices act) violation. If they call you after sending the letter, you can sue them for an FDCPA validation. If it shows up on your credit report, you can sue them for an FDCPA violation. Each violation is worth a thousand bucks to you. Note that a printout from their database is not sufficient validation to meet the FDCPA's requirements. They must send you copies of the original statements or at least an itemized list of charges. If they send you the wrong thing, that's a thousand bucks in your pocket.

If it's an old debt, check the statute of limitations for your state. If it is older than that, they can't sue you. (Well, they can, but you have an affirmative defense, which if you assert means they cannot collect)

See for more info.

Personally, I'd be baiting the bastards as much as I could so as to get them to violate the FDCPA as many times as possible, thus making their idiocy an income stream. IIRC, once you notify them of the fact the debt is not yours, it becomes willful violation, which trebles the statutory damages if you prove it in court.

Don't look at it as an annoyance, look at it as an opportunity.

Respond to the dunning letter quickly, as the failure to validate only applies if you send your request within 30 days of receiving the dunning letter.
posted by wierdo at 8:13 PM on March 11, 2010

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