If your experience with debt collection agencies has been far from pleasant, you are not alone. It is a well-known fact that these agencies use the most unorthodox methods while collecting from consumers.
It is however, essential to note that according to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which is a body that seeks to protect you from harassment, they are not allowed to behave in this way.
Some rules and regulations have been put in place concerning debt collection agencies, and these include:
Debt collection agencies are prohibited from using harmful and unfair tactics when trying to collect a debt.
They should not contact anybody who is not the main person that owes the debt.
They shouldn’t threaten you with referral to an attorney, wage garnishment, or harm your credit without an actual intent or act on the threat.
They should not call you at unreasonable times, such as before 8 am, or after 9 pm.
They should not contact you at your place of work if you have specifically asked them not to do so.
They should not place calls to inform on you to your employer or disclose any aspect of your debt to others.
They should not use profane or obscene language during their calls.
They should not send collection letters which appear to be from a government office or a court.
They should not threaten to arrest you if the debt remains unpaid.
Hunter Warfield is a large and independent third party debt collection agency that is headquartered in Tampa, Florida. They collect a wide variety of debts, which include financial, healthcare, property management, credit cards, and many more.
If you have recently been dealing with then on the phone, or have discovered them listed on your credit report, do not worry, I am here to help you out, and tell you how you shall go about dealing with this problem.
As mentioned above, the FDCPA regulates how these debt collection agencies operate, and they are not supposed to treat you in a manner that causes you to fear or feel disrespected. As such, in this review, I shall be very keen to inform you about your rights as a consumer.
So, should you just pay off the debt and help improve your credit report?
This is the most common question, and a misconception, I must say. Most people do assume that if they pay off their debts in collections, they will simply end up having the debt deleted from their credit report and just like magic have their credit score improve.
This is not true.
FICO, the company that is responsible for calculating your credit score, says that – the fact that you have collections listed on your credit report, will certainly lower your FICO score, and paying them will simply change the status from unpaid to paid.
The collections entry will still be shown, and as such, it shall still reflect negatively on the report.
The Experian credit bureau, one of the big three credit reporting agencies, says: “Paying the debt won’t necessarily help your credit scores. Accounts that get to the collection stage are about as negative as it gets. Only bankruptcy is worse. As a result, any improvement, especially right away, probably will be minor.” Seems pretty clear, right?
Listen, the secret to fixing credit is getting the item removed from your credit report. And while just paying off debt in collections, without first doing the wise due diligence, and following my tips below, will only result in a change of the status assigned to the item.
Do not ignore Hunter Warfield however when they contact you, because if they are unable to collect the payment, they shall legally sell off your debt to another collector, who will start again from scratch with the phone calls, and letters, and harassment.
They will then sue you for payment of the debt, and if they win, they shall be awarded a judgment. This is very bad for you because it means that they can cause your wages to be garnished, and liens placed on your properties.
Every state has typically unique laws that will investigate the claim in full details. Getting a judgment is very common in these types of debts.
The worst part about these judgments on credit reports is that they will decimate your credit score overnight.
The biggest coup of the FDCPA is that it will empower you to request debt validation on your account. This is essentially how you say – show me the evidence or proof of your legal claim to collect this money from me.
The first thing you should do when you receive a letter from IC Systems is to send them a reply through a debt verification letter.
A debt verification letter is a letter that you should send after the collector has sent you a debt validation letter.
I will explain these two.
After you receive the initial call, or letter, demanding that you pay a debt, you should not pay a single dime of it before confirming that the debt belongs to you. The debt collector is required to send you a debt validation letter which outlines the debt in terms of how much you owe and any other information they may have about you.
If you are uncertain about the debt you are being asked to pay, you can send them a debt verification letter which should request them to provide you with more information. This option is best when you are planning to pay off the debt.
Once IC systems receive your verification request, they are required to provide you with the information you enquired about, plus any accompanying documentation within 30 days. This documentation should contain your signature, to verify that you indeed owe the money; otherwise, you shall not be liable to pay the debt.
If they fail to validate your account, for whatever reason, then your debt is legally forgiven. As in you’re no longer legally responsible for repayment. Further, they’re supposed to contact all three credit bureaus, to have them start getting collections removed from credit report files, regarding this account.
2. Age of Account?
Next, you shall be required to check how old the account is. This will be from the date of your last activity. This should be found in the paperwork they used to validate the account.
You see, there are state laws that regulate how long you can legally be responsible for repaying a debt. Generally speaking, this is usually seven years, from the first date of delinquency. However, each state normally has its unique laws when it comes to the local legislation.
This is what we call the statute of limitations, and it applies to a majority of the consumer debts, from medical bills, credit cards, retail utilities, loans, telecommunications, etc. The few exceptions to this rule are defaulted student loans and federal income taxes.
Once this window of time elapses, your legal responsibility for repayment ends.
Warning, it’s a common debt collection industry tactic to re-age consumer accounts. And often this is done illegally. It’s also one of many reasons why it’s so potentially hazardous and financially dangerous to communicate with collection agencies.
Often they first require recognition of the debt, and many companies view that as account activity. And that so-called account activity can reset the statute of the limitations time clock.
3. Negotiating a Settlement
If your account has been validated, and it is within the statute of limitations, the next step you should take is to negotiate for a settlement agreement directly with Hunter Warfield. It is advisable to do this in writing in two parts;
First: you will need to negotiate to pay less than the total debt balance. Often, you shall be able to pay as little as 15% or up to 45% of the debt balance. The exact amount will depend on the type of debt you have in collections and how old it is.
Second: The second part of the agreement is extremely critical. In exchange for your payment, Hunter Warfield must agree to stop reporting the account to the credit bureaus, to ensure that it doesn’t appear on your credit report and mess up your credit score.
4. Removing the Wakefield collections from your credit report
This is the dispute step that I had mentioned earlier. For the negative item to be removed entirely from your credit report, you must engage some dispute procedures which will lead to a cleanup of your report.
To do this, we’ll need to exercise more of your consumer rights, this time, those granted by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Here are some blog posts I have written before on this topic.
When all is said and done, your credit score is extremely important to you, and I have discussed this on a previous blog post – A guide to Credit Score; It doesn’t matter how much you keep fighting with debt collection companies, what matters is that you care enough to settle the issue to improve on your credit report and score.
The risk here is that the more you keep engaging with them on a back and forth fight, the more your credit report will continue to suffer negatively. It is better to simply find ways of paying off the debt once you realize that it is valid.
Once you have paid off the debt, then, go a step further to ensure that the entry is completely removed from your credit report.
When you realize how crippling a lousy credit score is, you shall take your debt repayment much more seriously, and avoid situations where you may be forced to declare bankruptcy.