Monday, October 6, 2008
Help Me Howard: Collection Calls
They rank right up there with telemarketers as calls you'd least like to receive. Do collection agencies ring a bell? For one woman, they wouldn't stop ringing, trying to collect a debt even after she told them, "You've got the wrong woman," so she dialed Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Rosalina Alvarez: "I do have over 200 Beanie Babies that I collect."
The Beanie Baby craze in the 1990s has ended, but Rosalina Alvarez still can't get enough.
Rosalina Alvarez: "Beanie Babies help me sort of stay in check. They give me peace, tranquility."
Rosalina loved collecting her plush friends. What she doesn't enjoy is something else she's been collecting.
Rosalina Alvarez: "I've been collecting a lot of annoying phone calls at that."
The calls are from a collection agency, bugging her two to three times a day.
Rosalina Alvarez: "It started the end of May. I got a call from a collection agency looking for another person, and they refused to believe that that person is not me."
They told Rosalina they were looking for Rosa M. Alvarez. She explained, "That's not me."
Rosalina Alvarez: "I am not Rosa M. Alvarez; I'm Rosalina Alvarez. I don't even have a middle name."
They told Rosalina the Social Security number of that Rosa. It was not Rosalina's number. They said, OK, prove it.
Rosalina Alvarez: "What they are seeking is my Social Security number, and I refuse to give them the social security number over the telephone."
And the calls keep pouring in, leading Rosalina to conclude convincing a collection agency to quit calling is like trying to convince a right wing Republican to become a left wing Democrat.
Rosalina Alvarez: "It frustrates me because my mom also lives here, and they will argue with her as well, and they just keep calling. They refuse to believe it is not me, even though I have verified and re-verified their information."
Further frustrating Rosalina, the collection agency refused to send her any paperwork explaining how much the debt was.
Rosalina Alvarez: "The resolution for me would be for someone to help me with these people to get them to stop calling."
So, Howard, how do you stop a collection agency from calling if they are after the wrong person?
Howard Finkelstein, Seven News legal expert: "Federal law protects Rosalina. What she should do is send a letter to the collection agency telling them, you want no further contact with them, that they must stop calling and writing. By the way, under the law, they have to give you their address."
We then contacted the collection agency in Houston, Texas. A spokesman with GC Services told us, "Officially we can't make any comment," but after that Rosalina told us the calls stopped.
And if you are having problems with a collection agency, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If they get enough reports about a collection agency, they have the power to take action.
And even if you do owe a collection agency money, you still have rights.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you are the person that owes the money, you can still stop them from calling and writing by sending that letter. But that does not make the debt go away. They can take you to court and sue you. If you owe the money, the best thing to do: negotiate the debt down and set up a repayment schedule."
Rosalina's relieved the calls have stopped. She can even laugh about them and compare the collectors to one of her beanie babies.
Rosalina Alvarez: "The beanie that would describe them, I guess, would be a shark, because they are relentless in their chase."
Sharks, hey that Beanie Baby reminds me of a lot of people we run across.
By the way, we asked the collection agency how they would stop a collector from calling if you are not the person they are looking for. Their suggestion, contact the agency's corporate headquarters just like we did. In other words, go over the collectors' heads.
Paid your debt but still collecting trouble? Give us a call. Our payment plan is very affordable because there is no payments.
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