I can't believe I'm writing a follow-up question!
September 16, 2007 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Now what? I disputed a debt as a case of mistaken identity, but I'm still hearing from the credit agency!

I can't believe I'm writing a follow-up question!

A while back I asked about a threatening letter I had received from a creditor (J.A. Cambece) about a $5,000+ credit card debt in my name. Once again, I have no credit card from Citibank and I do not owe anyone anything. I got some excellent advice from the HiveMind, which I followed. I put fraud alerts on all three credit accounts, I ordered three credit reports, and I sent a certified letter from this site.

After I posted here (and before I had mailed my dispute or received my credit report), I got a phone call from Cambece. Now, that first threatening letter was the first bit of correspondence I ever received pertaining to this account. This was the first (and, to date, last) phone call I received from them. The man I spoke to said that he was calling to verify if I was the owner of the debt. I emphatically said I wasn't, and he told me the last four digits of the social security number associated with the account. They didn't match mine! I was so excited and thought the rest of this would be a piece of cake.

I sent out the dispute letter. I said that I was disputing the account and its charges. I said that I spoke to someone from their office and the person told me those four digits from the SSN and that they didn't match. I did not give the last four digits of my SSN. I was told not to give any personal information to them. I went on to say that, if there was still a question of whether I owe the debt, I wanted certain information about the account (name, SSN, contact info, date it was opened - really any information available). The form letter that I chose heavily quoted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and possibly some other things I didn't understand.

After I sent it out, I got my credit reports. They're clean! They have my single credit card, which is in very good standing, and not one mention of a Citibank card (which is the one I was accused of owing money on). Nothing even slightly suspicious! So, it doesn't seem like identity theft is actually an issue here. And, once again, I don't owe this money. I'm not trying to get out of a debt that is mine. I don't have this card, I have no account with Citibank, my SSN doesn't match the one associated with the account, and it doesn't appear on my credit report. According to How Many Of Me, there are 88 people in the US with my name. There's a good chance that at least a fraction of the others got this threatening letter, right?

Basically, I thought the SSN not matching bit would have them instantly cross me of their list of potential owners of the debt, but I was wrong. Today I got another letter, also from Cambece. It didn't in any way address the fact that I had disputed the debt OR that I mentioned the SSN issue and suggested mistaken identity. It only relates to the bit where I asked for more information. The only thing different about this letter is that it was actually signed. It says (bolding is my own):

RE: Original Creditor, Citibank - Our Client, CFG

This firm represents the above named CFG. Our client is the valid assignee of Citibank contractual rights originating from the credit card agreement between you and Citibank. This firm received your request to provide you with verification of the above - referenced debt. We conveyed your request to our client and upon our receipt of the verification documents the same shall be forwarded to your attention. Often the information you requested is in storage and on microfilm or microfiche. It may take some time before the information you requested is located and forwarded to your attention. There is no deadline for the production of these documents.

Okay, I bolded the first bit because there never WAS an agreement between the creditor and me! Why was the dispute not referenced in this letter? Second, interesting that they should define that there's no deadline for them, even though they imposed a 30-day deadline on the last response, and probably will impose deadlines for me on any future correspondence. I recall, in my last post about this, that I asked how I could prove my innocence, and someone said that they had to prove my guilt (not the other way round). It's starting to seem like they've skipped that step!

What does this letter mean?! What do I do next?! What do I do if they keep contacting me like this!? How do I get this fixed?? Preferably, I would like to deal with Citibank personally. I don't have any plans to give any more personal information to the Cambece office. I have read a lot about them online (nothing favorable.. well, unless you count their own sites).

Thank you for any advice (the first post has the entire backstory)! I really am at a loss.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, if it's not on your credit report, and it's not your SSN, then why worry about it? Trash their letters.

And from my (admittedly possibly outdated) education in the FCDPA, they have thirty days to prove a debt belongs to you once you request it. They can't just say that they have longer. After thirty days, it would have to be removed from your credit report. Since it's not on there, I still contend you have nothing to worry about.
posted by sugarfish at 9:52 AM on September 16, 2007

I had something similar happen. They stopped mailing me but kept calling me. They stopped bothering me, but it took at least a couple days for the calls to stop. They're probably violating some law, but it is all so automated now. Keep calling them, you're probably getting call center jockeys. Ask to speak to a manager if the letters and calls don't stop.

You are probably within your rights to escalate this with a lawyer and lawsuit, but it is much simpler to just be persistent and call after every mailing/letter.
posted by geoff. at 10:39 AM on September 16, 2007

And totally off-topic, but in relation to a link above - I know of 23 people in America with my last name (and there must be many more) - but howmanyofme says there are none! That can't be very accurate, obviously.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:26 AM on September 16, 2007

Ok, step back and take a deep breath. You've done everything right so far, and the process to clear your name is going along as it should. Right now they're pretending that they know for sure the debt is yours because anything less might be used in court against them.

They're right that they have no deadline, see the "What if the debt collector doesn't respond?" section in this wiki. At this point both of you are waiting for Citibank to search its vast records and produce the original membership agreement. You can imagine how long that might take. While this is happening you're essentially at a stalemate, they can't make any further collections attempts or report negative info, otherwise you can sue them for a few grand under the FDCPA.

I know how much it sucks to be wrongfully accused of something like this, but try to set your emotions aside so you don't make any rash decisions. This whole process is like a Kabuki play, every move is carefully scripted by decades of federal and case law. I strongly recommend you get a membership at creditboards.com. There are hundreds of people there who know every trick and twist a collection agency may throw at you, and they'll show you how to judo slam them right back.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:53 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Everything's proceeding normally. They just sent you a form letter, is all. When you invoke the magic word "validate", it triggers one letter. If you'd said "refuse to pay" or "don't have the money right now" it would have triggerred a different one.

The bit about there being an agreement between you and the creditor is (a) meant to scare those for whom this is true, and (b) meant to scare those for whom it is categorically untrue. Collections agencies are like terrorists; when you give it to fear, they've already won.

Toss the letter in a drawer and don't worry about it. The truth is, they can't touch you (or your credit report) and they know it. They're just hoping you'll shit your pants and pay anyway. There are always a few who do.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:55 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thank you TungstenChef and nakedcodemonkey!! This is exactly the information I was looking for. I'm going to check out creditboards.com right now, in fact.

I'm sure no one will check back here, but, just in case, is it a good idea to call Citibank and talk to them about it, or do I just wait to hear back from Cambece? I fear that, once I do hear back from them, I'll be making another post..

I know these are probably sad questions I've posed, but nothing like this has ever happened to me.. I really am clueless! Friends and family can't seem to provide any guidance, and googling has mostly come up with information for people who actually owe the debts or are victims of identity theft. So, as you can imagine, Metafilter has been a blessing. Thanks everyone for responding!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:10 PM on September 16, 2007

Oh and, sugarfish: I hope you're right! I'm not going to trash anything, but I'm going to try to keep it from my mind. See, I thought they they had to prove my guilt in 30 days, too! I couldn't believe that they said they had no deadline. I mean, I suppose I can see getting the info from Citibank might take a while, but it just seems wrong to not name some deadline. Thanks!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:17 PM on September 16, 2007

I am going through a similar process (though it doesn't seem quite as bad as yours). My best advice is to meet with a lawyer. I am pretty sure I found a local one via this site, and he's been very good.
posted by kajj at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2007

What would you see a lawyer for, though? You've gotten a couple calls and letters about a file mixup. And--?

Your credit is unblemished and actively monitored, you're not being sued, no judgment and garnished wages, nobody harassing you at your home or office, your employer or neighbors haven't been told any embarrassing falsehoods about your supposed indebtedness, and the collection agency has indicated that they're doing what they're supposed to do to un-mixup their silly files -- which is apparently the only place where your name has been connected to someone else's debt.

What harm has been done that requires you to spend one more minute caring about it, much less writing letters or paying lawyers? (That's not rhetorical; I'm really asking. If there's something calamitous here, spell it out.) As far as I can tell, it's a petty annoyance that you've got well in hand. Well done. Move on.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2007

Hmm.. well, it's not well in hand. Okay, my credit and identity hasn't been blemished, but apparently these guys are slimy bastards. I've done a bit of research on them, and they've been more than a nuisance for plenty of people. I do consider the threatening letters harassment, and this is a waste of my time.. and additional stress. I'm sure more letters and phone calls are forthcoming. I know my concerns and questions probably don't make much sense, but I'm not very financially knowledgeable, so this really has upset me/pissed me off.

Thanks kajj! I'll put that site away for safekeeping, just in case. I'm a little on the unemployed side, so I kind of hope it doesn't come to that. But, better to be prepared, I guess! Good luck with rectifying your problem!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:51 PM on September 17, 2007

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