tjb86

How do I fix this mess?

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Hi all,

So...last week, I was informed for the first time of a debt I owe from November 2017 (an old apartment complex I moved out of in November). When I moved out, they signed forms showing I had $0 balance. I now received proof from a collection agency showing that this was false and that I owe $800ish (and I think they're right). I had a 650 credit score before this and don't want it to affect my credit, but since I hung up on the collection agency guy after being on the phone with him for 2 minutes a month and a half ago (asking him why he's calling me from my area code when his business that Google said is a scam is listed as being in Georgia), they claim it's now listed on my credit report. I didn't believe him about the debt for a second considering I have never had debt before and I just closed on a condo 2 weeks prior and never heard anything about a debt owed, and he didn't provide me with any specifics (until this week). If the voicemails I received from them weren't robocalls from fake phone numbers in my area and gave specifics on what was owed, I would've fixed this mess quickly.

A more thorough explanation of what happened is below. Any suggestions on what I can do to fix this and get it off my report?  Convert the explanation below into a letter to the collection agency asking them to do so, perhaps? Thanks for your help.

 

 

I lived at a Quantum Real Estate Management apartment complex in 2017. I moved out in November 2017. I signed move-out forms with property management where property management wrote that I had no balance due. Should I have known about a missing payment, I would have paid it immediately, as I always do.

I first learned of this outstanding debt last week after a National Credit Systems rep finally got a hold of me on the phone to explain the situation. While I received automated voicemails from National Credit Systems in the past, I never believed they were actually from a legitimate business as they always came from +1 973 area codes. Calls coming from +1 973 (my area code, which I still have from when I lived in NJ) normally signify a scam calI. I receive those types of calls weekly from individuals posing to be IRS agents and credit card companies with the goal of extorting money. I also never received anything in the mail about this debt I supposedly owed, which seemed like another red flag to me.

If the National Credit Systems voicemails were personalized to me rather than being automated, and if they mentioned that I had an outstanding debt from Mass Place Apartments – a name I recognize – I would have called back and rectified the problem immediately. Without that, as someone that has never had something go to a collection agency before, I felt there was no way that the calls were legitimate. Despite having my e-mail address on file, National Credit Systems also never sent me proof of the debt I owed at the onset. If a representative did, it would have cleared away all suspicions I had.

I had one other very brief (5 minute or less) conversation with Mr. Dubois on the phone earlier (perhaps August or September), but it was so brief that I never heard the name “Mass Place Apartments” from him, which would have rung a legitimacy bell in my head. On the call, I asked him what business he was with, and he said National Credit Systems. I quickly Googled the business and noticed that people reported it as a scam. Likely, they were individuals who just had no intention of paying their debts and reported the business as a bad one so they could blame someone else for their problems; nevertheless, those Google postings led me to believe this supposed debt owed was a farce by yet another phone scam operation.

If my memory serves me right, all that Mr. Dubois and I discussed on that brief 5-minute call in August or September before I disconnected was why a debt collector that Google says is based in Georgia would be calling me from a +1 973 New Jersey area code. Never was I asked for my e-mail so he could send PDFs of my lease and the account ledger as evidence of the legitimacy, which would have caused me to act quickly. If I received more details in a voicemail, e-mail, or other form of communication regarding the debt, I would’ve understood the legitimacy of the call and acted quickly.

After that brief call, I phoned my most recent apartment complex (RiverHouse Apartments, where I lived from December 2017-August 2019) to see if there was any debt that I owed. They said there was not, so I assumed I was in the clear. Additionally, I just closed on a property purchase in August and this issue never came up on the credit report that was needed to close. So i was sure there was no issue.

However, last week, I finally received PDFs of proof from Mr. Dubois last week after our first “real” conversation, and after making several calls to the old Quantum Real Estate building management immediately after from receiving this information from him to verify that it was all legitimate, I have determined that it seems to be accurate. In my first couple of calls, management told me there was nothing owed on my end, but after I followed up, I received a different Mass Place/Quantum staffer who managed to pull up my account and confirm.

This isolated incident was an anomaly that stemmed from a misunderstanding. It would have been paid promptly if I knew exactly what was going on.

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How do you fix the mess?

 

You said the debt is legitimate.  You said you would've paid it earlier had you known about the debt, and its legitimacy. 

Is there some reason NOT to just pay the debt now?

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4 minutes ago, BackFromTheDebt said:

How do you fix the mess?

 

You said the debt is legitimate.  You said you would've paid it earlier had you known about the debt, and its legitimacy. 

Is there some reason NOT to just pay the debt now?

Sorry if I wasn’t clear. 

that’s not a question. The answer is yes - pay in full tomorrow.

My question is what can I do to ensure this doesn’t affect my credit report? Write a letter to the collection agency explaining this whole situation, along with my previous 650 credit score to prove how serious I am, and hope for the best?

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35 minutes ago, tjb86 said:

My question is what can I do to ensure this doesn’t affect my credit report?

You can offer to pay in full in exchange for them deleting the entry on your credit report (known around here as Pay For Delete or PFD), but they rarely agree to this anymore. I would still try because if you do the next part without trying a pay for delete first, you may lose the only opportunity you have to get this deleted.

Important note: this next part will only work if the apartment management still owns the debt (i.e. hasn't sold it to a junk debt buyer). The management can tell you this, but you may want to record the conversation just in case they happen to be mistaken. 

About the only way you can get any kind of leverage against the CA is to catch them in an FDCPA/FCRA violation. Since you're now long past the initial 30-day communication window, you'll have to catch them reporting false info. The very first thing you need to do is get copies of all three credit reports from http://annualcreditreport.com (free once per year). This will tell you if the item is actually on your credit report or not. The next thing I would do is go to the apartment management in person with copies of their signed paperwork showing a zero balance owed, and politely explain that you  believed you owed them nothing based on that. I would then offer to pay them directly in full right then with a cashier's check. The only way this will work is if they accept the payment themselves. If they do accept the payment, you need to immediately open a dispute with any of the credit bureaus that show the item on your credit report. The ideal situation for you is that the collection agency verifies that you still owe the entire amount. If they do, you have a violation against them that you can use as leverage to get the item deleted. 

It's a hassle and requires some finesseing, but it's about your only shot if they refuse a PFD.

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I was typing an answer, and then @Harry Seaward replied with good advice.

The only thing I want to add is that most collection agencies don't report.  It is usually the landlord who would or would not report.  

That being said, it doesn't hurt to ask for a PFD deal.  You agree to pay, they agree to not report or delete the report.

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Just now, BackFromTheDebt said:

I was typing an answer, and then @Harry Seaward replied with good advice.

The only thing I want to add is that most collection agencies don't report.  It is usually the landlord who would or would not report.  

That being said, it doesn't hurt to ask for a PFD deal.  You agree to pay, they agree to not report or delete the report.

Thank you very much to you both.

My plan was to send a letter tomorrow with a check for the exact amount owed, along with a letter asking they do not report (I think they already told me on the phone last week that they reported, though, which I will verify.)

But you guys are saying to not send the payment immediately and to rather send that PDF request in priority certified mail first?

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Offer to pay the CA first in exchange for deleting the tradeline from your reports. Get "delete" in writing before you pay them a dime. "Update" and "zero balance" does you no good if they don't delete the entry. 

If the CA rejects your offer, then go try to pay the apartment management directly. If they take your payment, then immediately dispute the CA entry on your credit report. 

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18 minutes ago, Harry Seaward said:

Offer to pay the CA first in exchange for deleting the tradeline from your reports. Get "delete" in writing before you pay them a dime. "Update" and "zero balance" does you no good if they don't delete the entry. 

If the CA rejects your offer, then go try to pay the apartment management directly. If they take your payment, then immediately dispute the CA entry on your credit report. 

Will do. Thanks very much.

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