Paying money I don't necessarily have, to people I don't really owe, for reasons I don't fully understand.
October 1, 2007 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Succumbing to Extortion Filter: How should I pay back a debt I don't really owe, to a collection agency that's been hounding me for years, to make sure it doesn't appear on my record? More inside.

This is a follow-up to my first askme ever. has it been that long? I've been disputing an illegitimate pair of debt collections for nearly the past three years, and it's been a rotten experience, as would be expected. After having these debts on my credit reports, (successfully) fighting to have them removed, having them REappear on some of my credit reports, again having them removed, I'm about ready to give up.

People wiser than me have pointed out that the entire sum is about $320, and I should just suck it up. I've argued that besides the principle of the thing, there is also the fact that even once it's paid, it will stay on my report for seven years, and I'd rather avoid that.

In the mean time, my friends the collection agents have confused me with my brother, and started going after him. Not knowing any better, he gave them his address, and now my credit reports have HIS address on them. They've threatened his credit, but it's unclear if they meant him or me, or if they *really* know who he is enough to wreck his credit. I've instructed him not to communicate with them any further.

At the moment, there is no record of the debts on my records, except for some minor detritus of my dispute on one of them. So, I figure it makes sense to seize the opportunity, and pay the damn thing. I've already spent more than this amount in time and tears trying to make it go away.

I've read that I shouldn't pay by check, as that just provides them with more of my personal finance information. actually, since i'm out of the country, it would be my mom's check, and I certainly don't want them to have any more family member's information. . So my plan is:
* Pay by money order
* Send it via fedex, so I can prove their receipt (easier for us than certified mail, though obviously more expensive).
* Include a letter.

And here's the question:
I've been advised about this letter thing, and I'm looking for help with crafting it. Basically, the advice from a lawyer (fwiw), was to write that I protest my liability for the debts, and by them cashing the money order, they relieve me of all debts, and agree to ensure that no record of these illegitimate debts appear on any credit report.

How should this be phrased? Should I threaten a lawsuit if it does appear on my record? What other steps should I be taking to make this all go away as simply and painlessly (ha. ha.) as possible?
at this point, we're hoping to avoid fighting it, since the sum is (relatively) small, I'm abroad, and we'd rather it just go away
posted by prophetsearcher to Work & Money (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don't pay them anything.

If they keep reporting bogus debts, and you can't possibly owe them anything, sue them. If they go after him, have him sue them, too. $1000 a pop will get them out of your hair pretty quickly, unless they like giving you money for no reason.
posted by oaf at 3:46 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

By "him" I mean your brother.
posted by oaf at 3:46 PM on October 1, 2007

And I should add that if they can't prove you owe them (or anyone else, who may have sold it to them), they're dead in the water. Keep disputing the debt on your credit report—if the credit bureaus don't remove erroneous negative information, you could go after them as well.
posted by oaf at 3:50 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Did you take the last person's advice and ask a lawyer? Because this sounds like a pattern of harassment despite documented notification of error on their part. Maybe sue the crap out of them for your time, financial hassles, and emotional distress?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:01 PM on October 1, 2007

Like oaf, I'd fight it, but I can understand why you don't want to.

I've never been through all this, but I know that can help with a lot of the info and wording you need. I think the phrase you want is "pay for delete." Personally, if they won't stop hounding you for something you don't owe, I wouldn't trust them to remove the debt from your credit report after you pay, either, so you're going to have to prepare to fight that. Also note that you can send them a letter telling them to contact you only by mail, and then get a cease & desist order if they don't. Again, everything I know I learned by skimming creditboards, so I'd turn there for the advice you need.
posted by salvia at 4:04 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

You both should sue them, and the CRAs for allowing a deleted record to be added again.

Given the unethical stuff they've done in the past which you didn't sue them for, they could just add the items back, knowing you won't sue. All a "pay for delete" would do is allow you to win your case easier, but it sounds like you could have already done that.

The shortest route to having that stuff permanently off your record is through the courts.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:26 PM on October 1, 2007

Check out Consumerist's list of articles about debt collectors. There may be something there that might help out your situation.
posted by fallenposters at 4:39 PM on October 1, 2007

Speaking as someone who's been harrassed by their ilk, lawyer up and sue the fuck out of them. You'll be doing everybody a favor.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:58 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Second what Pope Guilty has said.

SUE the unholy fucking SHIT out of these bastards. I firmly believe that the whole credit reporting industry needs to be crushed into oblivion with the Hammer of God.

Check into statutes of limitations, too. They're harassing you, plain and simple. Force them to prove that the debt is valid. The FCRA can actually work for you.

Also, sue Experian/Equifax/Transunion if they're still reporting it.

You shouldn't just suck it up. Those people are not wiser than you. Paying it is just giving into their demands, and allows them to do this to *other* people as well.
NEVER deal with debt collectors over the phone. NEVER give them any of your financial information.
Chances are you're getting hit by a junk debt buyer. They will just do this again.
posted by drstein at 12:19 PM on October 2, 2007

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