The truth about collection accounts.

By JR Rooney

The collection agency industry is a billion dollar industry. According to Rapid Recovery Solution, Inc. income from late fees and over-the-limit fees accounted for $14.8 billion dollars in the year 2004.

A collection account is defined as a delinquent account that has been forwarded to a debt collection agency, usually when it has become 90 to 120 days late. Creditors send accounts to collection agencies to remove them from their accounts receivables, then write-off the full debt owed as a loss. Creditors benefit in two ways: first, for writing off the debt as a loss on their taxes, and second, when the money is collected which can be recorded as a profit or accounts receivable. Many collection accounts are purchased from the original creditor for a fraction of the original amount owed but not always.

When you receive a letter from a debt collection agency, verify that the company contacting you has a legal right to collect money on your account. A debt collection agency may hold a collection account for just a few months, and if they are unsuccessful in collecting on the debt owed, the account is forwarded to another debt collection agency. This process continues until the account is paid or legal action is taken against you.

Debt Collection Agencies obtain the following information to develop a strategy to collect money owed: name, address, credit report, credit application, correspondence with the consumer, amount owed by the consumer and date of last payment. Many debt collection agencies also use illegal tactics to scare consumers such as: pretending they are one of your creditors asking to verify information, pretending they are an old friend or neighbor to catch you off guard, sending persistent follow-up calls or letters, sending threatening letters or leaving threatening voice mail messages, preying on your emotions, canceling credit card privileges, making the threat of litigation or pursuing litigation, and continuing to charge late and over-the-limit fees. Many of these tactics violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

A debt collection agency's primary objective is to get the money owed paid as soon as possible. They will ask why you can't make payment arrangements today. Another tactic that may be used is to transfer you to their supervisor, which by this time you may be angry or frustrated and could possibly agree to anything just to get off the phone with them. Don't do it. Remain calm throughout the conversation. Don't let the debt collection agency change your mind about what you can afford or scare you into doing something you don't want to do. Be firm and stick to the terms agreed upon. Confirm your agreement in writing and send certified mail with a return receipt to ensure delivery and proof of delivery.

Debt Collection Agencies are slow to report that an account has been paid or transferred to another company, so it is critical that you obtain proof of payment. If you have missed one or two payments, contact the original creditor immediately to set up a payment plan. Stick to your payment arrangement to sustain your relationship with the creditor and retain your credit rating.

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