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How I Negotiated With My Collection Agency


You have to be your own advocate.

Editor's Note: This is the conclusion of a multi-part series about paying off credit card debt and dealing with collection agencies. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

October may very well be the most difficult month in my personal history. Due to several personal crises that took place, I wasn't able to work for a good part of the month. When I realized the money wasn't going to be coming in as I'd hoped, I called my "account representative" to tell her that in no way could the postdated check go through.

She tells me, "Jessie, there's nothing we can do. You better have funds in the account." I'm so resigned at this point I don't even know what to do next. I call the bank. They can't do anything until they see the "check" presented for payment, and even then, it's unlikely they can prevent it from going through. Call back after it's been paid and dispute it, they tell me.

My bank pays the draft, and my account is overdrawn. I'm charged with fees up the wazoo. I call the bank and tell them I revoked authorization of the payment and they didn't have permission to draft the account. We start that procedure and they return the funds to my account.

In the meantime, I had another card that had just completed a payment plan with another collection agency. Since I had a good relationship with that agent, (and that card was now a zero balance) I call her and ask her advice. She suggests I file a complaint with the proper authorities, and that I can call them and give them a "cease and desist" notice. But, most importantly, I must get online and make a payment (even if it's just $100) to my account so that a billing cycle doesn't go by without a payment. I take her advice.

At this point, I'm so sick of that woman and that company that I call American Express (AXP) directly (who still owns the debt) and ask what I can do -- I'm NOT dealing with Nationwide Credit anymore -- no way! American Express has an entire department that acts as the liaison between the client and the collection agency. You'd never know about this department unless you asked the right question in the right way (which I guess I finally did).

I get forwarded to a supervisor, and after leaving several messages, I finally get a call back. While the woman on the other end of the phone is sympathetic, they're not moving my account to another company. Funny thing is, despite acknowledging that the collection practices were abusive (and in some cases, like mine, they cross the line), and that they've received complaints about them on a number of occasions, Nationwide Credit Inc. is still very effective in collecting delinquent accounts.

She tells me that I should file a complaint with the Attorney General's office and the FTC. And, she tells me that she'll call the woman's supervisor and get my account moved to another representative. I explain to her that I've been calling that supervisor for over a week, and I haven't heard back from him yet. "Don't worry," she tells me, "he'll return my call."

Here I'll pause and summarize some important advice that was given to me by the supervisor in the liaison office.

1. No matter what happens, if your account goes to a collection agency, you MUST deal with that agency, and not the original holder of the debt (even if the debt hasn't been sold off to the collection agency).

2. Bypassing the collection agency and making a payment online can still result in a judgment against you, even after the debt has been paid in full.
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