Question

My Girlfriend just got a letter from a collection agency, with an account number and the amount of $150 dollars that is owed. She never recieved any mail or phone calls regarding this amount from the original creditor, and does not even know the date or original purchase. She believes the claim could be real, because she did cancel a few credit card accounts in the past..but does not know who it could be. Is there a way to pay that amount off without it going to the collection agency or hurting her perfect credit score?

Response

First you need to get your girlfriend’s current credit report and see if the account is being reported as a collection. It’s very possible that it is since she was contacted by a collection agency. Nonetheless, it’s very important to know if it’s on her credit report because it will dictate how the situation should be handled.

If it hasn’t been reported yet, you need to have her contact the collection agency right away via mail. Do not deal over the phone with these people. Write a letter that states you will pay off the collection in full if they agree in writing that the account will not be reported to the 3 credit reporting agencies. Also, in the letter make sure she doesn’t admit the account is hers. Send everything via certified mail.

If the account has already been reported to the credit agencies (more likely) then she needs to do two things.
First she needs to write a debt validation letter to the collection agency. These letters should be very simple. Simply ask that they verify the following information:

  • The name and address of the original creditor.
  • Detailed information showing how the “Balance Owed” has been calculated.
  • Proof that the statue of limitations as defined by the State of [your state] has not expired.

Now, this next step is very important and needs to be done right after the letter is sent (like the next day). Dispute the collection account with ALL 3 of the credit agencies. Dispute it as “no knowledge of this account”. Search for “dispute” on my blog to see my post on how to do this.

The reason why you want to dispute it right after you send that letter is because the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act forbids the collection agency from responding to any requests regarding the debt while you have requested that the debt be validated. Therefore, when the credit agencies contact the collection agency to verify the account that was deputed, by law, the collection agency can’t respond and the credit agencies will be forced to remove the account from your girlfriend’s credit report.