Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Help Me Howard: Bill Collector
Getting sent to a debt collector is always cause for concern, but for one couple, it's turned into a cause for action because they say they don't owe the company a dime. Their next move, Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Evangeline Ott: "That's where he likes to be massaged, right there."
Marty and Evangeline have a wonderful marriage. So good she agreed to go along with a joke prescription her husband got from his doctor.
Evangeline Ott: "He says, the one for three massages a week from my wife, and the doctor says, 'Oh, OK. Well, I'll rewrite it for you.'"
The Otts are happily retired, enjoying life, even able to take their motor home and travel for weeks at a time.
Evangeline Ott: "We saved well and invested."
Before their latest trip, the couple got everything organized, even making sure to stop delivery of the Sunday Sun Sentinel.
Evangeline Ott: "I canceled the paper in May when the renewal slip came out. I canceled it."
Then, just days later, a special delivery-- this time in their mailbox.
Evangeline Ott: "I got a notice from a debt collector for the paper."
That stunned Evangeline, who is very proud of their payment history.
Evangeline Ott: "We pay our bills on time or before."
So to get a call from a collection agency was shocking, and when she found out the amount the Sun Sentinel said she owed, stunning.
Evangeline Ott: "$12.76 is what it is."
Evangeline immediately called the collection agency. If you have never had the misfortune to talk to them, trust me, they won't leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.
Evangeline Ott: "And I told them I don't owe them. I had proof that I paid it. They didn't ask for the proof, they said, 'Just pay it,' and I said, 'I don't owe it.' Last thing he said to me was, 'You know you owe it, just pay it.' Then he hung up."
Evangeline spoke next to the Sun Sentinel.
Evangeline Ott: "I said, why would you send me to a debtor, debt collector for $13. I said, you didn't call me and try to resolve this, you sent it to a debt collector. I said, we don't owe anybody."
Evangeline could make the debt collector go away and make the Sun Sentinel happy by just sending them $12.76, but she refuses.
Evangeline Ott: "I don't owe it. I paid it, and I have proof."
But how can you get companies to listen to you when you have already paid the bills, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Evangeline did everything the right way, contacted the collection agency, the paper. The next step, send a certified letter to both because they can't say they didn't get the letter. They can deny they got a phone call."
A spokesperson for the Sun Sentinel told us, "Our system shows there were somehow two different accounts for the Otts." One, in Evangeline's name and an account past due in Marty's name. The Otts say that's strange because Marty didn't subscribe, and the couple never got two papers at the same time. The Sun Sentinel told us that customers should receive calls before it's sent to collections. The paper told us, we are wiping out Marty's account balance and stopping the collection process.
Howard says, even if you owe a debt, you can stop a collection agency from harassing you.
Howard Finkelstein: "Also, just send a letter telling them to stop calling you. By law they can call you one more time to let you know what action they are going to take next. After that they can't call you, but you still owe the money."
The Otts got the bill collector and the paper off their backs and can continue to hop on their bike to enjoy the next ride in retirement.
Patrick Fraser: "We get a lot of complaints about bill collectors. Like Howard said, you don't have to put up with the harassment, and besides writing them a letter, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Collecting enough problems to paper your wall? Need someone to be your Sentinel? Contact us. We won't bill you, you won't be indebted. We're free.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Federal Trade Commission