Debt charged off and reported without asking me for payment
January 7, 2008 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Is a company required to make a good faith effort to collect on a debt before reporting it as charged off? Do I have any recourse for my credit report?

I seem to have the opposite problem of everyone else on the internet - I can pay my bills, and collectors won't start calling me.

Here's the full story: About three years ago I moved and neglected to change my address with my cell phone provider (Verizon). Since I stopped getting bills, out of sight, of mind, and I didn't pay for about two months. When I tried to make a call and got redirected to their billing department, I realized what I had done. Their automated system offered a total amount due (about $150 if I recall) and I paid it using a credit card over the phone. I switched to automatic credit card payments and continued to have uninterrupted service with Verizon for another two years, at which point I closed my account and switched to a different provider.

I checked my credit report recently and found that I had a ~$30 item from Verizon listed as "Charged Off as Bad Debt". This item originated about five months after I originally paid off what I thought was the due balance on my account.

In the intervening three years, I was never contacted by a collection agency nor Verizon about the amount supposedly due. They certainly could have - they had my address and obviously my phone number, but it seems they made no attempt to inform me of this debt or collect on it. They certainly could have just deducted it from my credit card since I had automatic payments set up. Now it's the only bad thing on my credit report and I'd like to get rid of it.

Assume for the purposes of this discussion that I really don't care if the $30 is legitimate or not, and that I'm willing to pay it + interest to get rid of the item on my credit report.

General questions I'm tossing out:
* Is it OK for companies to report a charged off debt without even trying to collect on it?
* Will Verizon even accept payment on something "charged off" ? If so, will that change the status of the report?
* Can I get this completely erased by any means?
* Is the dispute process with the credit reporting agencies something that might actually work in this case?
* How much is it actually affecting my credit score?
posted by 0xFCAF to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can probably get it removed from your credit report. If you dispute a charge with a credit reporting agency, then they'll contact the creditor and decide what action to take. For $30, Verizon probably won't bother disputing your dispute (since it won't make any difference to their bottom line), although I've heard that cellphone companies can be sticklers about it.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 PM on January 7, 2008

If you don't dispute it then it impacts your credit more than if you do. But in this case it should be possible to get it taken off entirely, since you're willing to make good on it. You may need some help getting to the right person. An ordinary Verizon customer service drone probably can't do this for you.

Since this sort of thing seems to happen to everyone at some time or other, there are quite a few credit counseling resources available to you. Yes, they focus on helping people with giant debts, but they should also have the right contact numbers for the people at Verizon who can actually help you work through this.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 1:02 PM on January 7, 2008

I have the same problem with Verizon. They already sent it to a collection agency, so they will tell you they can't do anything if you call them. I disputed it with all three credit agencies (I enclosed a copy of my statement showing "account closed -- $0 balance due" even) and all three reported back that the collection agency said it was a valid debt.

I was never contacted by anyone either. As far as I can tell, you have to call the collection agency (Verizon will tell you their phone number if you call them).

You can't even dispute it in court because they made you sign a contract agreeing to arbitration.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:25 PM on January 7, 2008

Verizon billing sucks. I recently had to deal with a cranky collections agent because verizon had given them an address that was 2 years out of date when I left verizon, 3 years ago.
posted by nomisxid at 2:42 PM on January 7, 2008

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