Thursday, February 28, 2013

Debt Collectors and The Art of Lying

Five years ago, I sat at home and started having these nightmarish chest pains.  After trying, in vain, to cope with them, I was taken to the ER where they discovered a gall stone the size a ping pong ball. I was told it had to come out before my gallbladder ruptured. So, despite having no insurance and only a part time job at the university, I went under the knife and the offending organ was swiftly removed.

The shadow of that surgery has hung over my head ever since. It took the ugly form of a debt I couldn't pay. It grew like a monster into legal action that I was told I couldn't fight and there was nothing I could do about it. It matured into the monster called garnishment on the paycheck for the first real job I was able to get after I graduated college. It has languished like a tyrant these last two years.

I started the long and arduous journey of having this debt paid off as soon as I could (i.e. last tax return season). I started making phone calls and asking questions. It was then that I encountered the real face of the monster known as debt; the man behind the curtain, if you will. My credit report showed a debt management company as the contact for the debt. Of course, I called them. I enthusiastically and positively approached this encounter believing I would slay the monster and be able to move along with my life.

I was blindsided when the agent on the other end of the line started throwing numbers out that were considerably more than my credit report showed. I was confused and distraught. I couldn't pay that much. I didn't have that much to give them. They held firm to this position that I owed almost twice what was being reported. They gave me all these very sensible sounding reasons; legal fees, court costs, interest, etc.etc. But that didn't change the fact that I didn't have the amount that they wanted from me. 

It had to wait another year. Another year of watching my paycheck vanish into unknown coffers. It was another year of not knowing how much money I was actually making. It was another year in the shadow of the monster.

Fast forward to this years tax season.

Once again I am bright eyed and optimistic about finally getting out from under this thing.  I have checked my credit report again and the amount has gone down! There really is money being paid to this debt! Hallelujah!

Again, I start making phone calls.  I call the contact information on the report and once again I feel like I am kicked in the chest as I encounter the soulless creatures that work for this company. They are still claiming I owe them almost twice what is being reported.  I offer them what I have, which is exactly enough to pay off what is on my credit report.  They reject the offer.  This year the excuse are different.  I become upset and feel like I am being fed a load of lies, but they still sound so reasonable and logical.  There I am upset and devastated that I might not be able to take care of this the way I thought I would. And this year there's a wedding to get ready for as well.

I felt like the weight was never going to let off my chest.

I eventually just hung up the phone after having three people reject my offering.  Telling me there is no way they can accept anything less than this larger amount.  There is no settlement to be made. There is no room for negotiating.  It was just so cold.

But it didn't feel real.  It didn't seem right somehow. It left a bad feeling in my stomach.

We started digging around.  If that company controlled my debt the way they implied, there probably was nothing I could do. But they didn't own the debt. The clinic still owned the debt.  They said I didn't have to pay through that company and yes they had heard the stories about them before.  And the amount I owed was not on penny more than my credit report stated.  They had lied and tried to get THEIR fees paid out of MY pocket.  Well, that didn't work out this time.  My debt is paid and they won't get one red cent from it.  

They lied and manipulated and did everything they could to scratch money out of me that I didn't owe. If you find yourself in a position similar to this one, start asking questions.  Questions like "who owns my debt?" and  "what is their contact information?"  You are able to get a free credit report online. Print one out and find out who the original debtor is before giving money to a company that may actually be just hired guns and out to take you for everything they can. The internet can be used for good.  Research the company that is contacting you or trying to get you to pay a debt through them.  Protect yourself and your money.

-Nerdy Goth Girl

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