Monday, November 5, 2012
Help Me Howard: Collection
Getting a call from a collection agency is not the highlight of a day. Getting a call from a collection agency over a debt you don't know can be the low point of they day. But how do you stop a collection agency? Two ways, and one is to call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When we met with Kathy Keith, she was so friendly and upbeat. You never would have known what she was going through."
Kathy Keith: "There is no point in you going through chemotherapy."
A few days earlier, Kathy had buried her husband Ed who died from cancer and then...
Kathy Keith: "Then, two days afterwards, I get a call saying this bill that I owed $6,000 from a debt collection agency."
The letter from the collection agency said Kathy owed $6,637 for a medical procedure at Jackson Memorial Hospital back in 2003. Kathy is very familiar with Jackson.
Kathy Keith: "I did. I had very good insurance. I was a nurse at Jackson at that time. At that time, I was a nurse."
Another reason Kathy was surprised by the letter was because she had also gotten it a year ago and immediately got in touch with Jackson.
Kathy Keith: "I know I didn't owe it. I called Jackson and Jackson assured me no, I don't owe it and they would take care of it."
That was in December 2011. Jackson even gave her a statement that showed her bill was paid in full and her balance was zero.
Then, four months later the collection agency was back and not in a polite way.
Kathy Keith: "They want to do some horrible things. I forget what. Basically they do not believe me and I'm like, talk to Jackson."
After three collection attempts, Kathy is frustrated. In part at the hospital,
Kathy Keith: "I can understand that they made a mistake. But when you called and you told them they made a mistake and they said, 'we'll take care of it,' they didn't do anything. They didn't do anything in December. They didn't do anything in April, and now."
But Kathy is really upset at the collection agency. Not only for harassing her for a debt she does not owe, but for what they are doing to her credit.
Kathy Keith: "When you get turned over to a collection agency, your credit is affected because it's known by the credit reporting people that you are in collections."
After losing Ed, Kathy has allot of things on her mind. Being hounded by a collection agency is something she can do without.
Kathy Keith: "It's devastating. You know, you are like, I can't believe this."
The hospital admits she doesn't owe the money. The collection agency isn't being told that, or is ignoring the message. So Howard, what can Kathy do?
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all, if you get a letter like Katherine did and you know it's wrong, don't ignore it. Send a certified letter to the the collection agency and the company or in this the hospital that says you owe money. If they don't correct it, they are responsible for any monetary damages it causes you."
We then contacted Jackson Memorial Hospital and they quickly took care of it. The collection agency sent a letter saying Katherine's account was closed and there would be no further collection activity. They then apologized for the inconvenience. But why did Jackson even send Katherine to a collection agency? A spokesman told Patrick it was a mistake under a prior administration.
The collection agency wrote that, "there has been no derogatory information reported to your credit file from this agency." Howard says, don't take their word for it.
Howard Finkelstein: "If this happens to you, you are entitled to get a free credit report to see if there are any mistakes damaging your credit. If there are, notify the credit bureaus in writing. They then have to correct the mistake, and if they don't, you can sue the credit bureau for damages."
With so much on her mind right now, at least we were able to help Katherine get rid of one little problem.
Kathy Keith: "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
Now, if a collection agency contacts you at home or work and you don't want the calls, send them a certified letter telling them to stop. Then, they can contact you one more time to tell you they got your letter or are going to sue you. And if they keep calling, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Unwanted calls sickening you? Wanna collect some free help? Contact us. We don't send a bill. We don't need credit. We just want to give you some peace of mind.
To file collection agency complaint, visit: http://ftc.gov/
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com