Receiving a call from a debt collection agency usually is a terrible experience as most of them tend to be rude, and they will harass and threaten you. For this reason, most people will assume it is a scam or some fraudster trying to get access to your personal information.
The problem with debt collection is that it has always been a dirty job, where the debt collection agencies will use all sorts of unorthodox and demeaning methods to collect from you, and because people do not know, or even understand their rights, they have been letting these agencies get away with murder.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t pay your debts, all I’m saying is that they should have a better way of trying to collect what you owe.
So, in this particular review, I have highlighted Wakefield and Associates, which is a third party debt collection agency that is based in Colorado.
Are they legit?
This is a legitimate debt collection agency that has been in operation since 1946, and have an estimated revenue of $7.4 million.
According to their website, they claim to take a fair and professional approach when dealing with their clients, which results in a low complaints rate.
However, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), there have been numerous complaints lodged against them, and most of the claims purport that the company violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by making false and misleading statements and also failed to verify debts.
This is wrong, and as a consumer, you have rights, which prohibit a company like Wakefield and Associates from following the correct procedures when collecting from you.
They have been sued in the federal court more than 190 times, for violating consumer’s rights while collecting on alleged debts. A recent Federal court ruling alleged that Wakefield improperly reported information on consumer’s credit reports after the consumer had settled the debt.
How do they operate?
Wakefield and Associates collect and service a broad swathe of consumer debts, which include healthcare, property management, financial services, and many more.
Now, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a legislation that was passed by Congress to regulate the debt collection industry. This act consists of laws and guidelines that all debt collections agencies must follow to ensure that they do not violate the rights of the consumer.
Here are some of their rules on debt collectors:
They prohibit the use of 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.
In short, it says debt collectors are required to be honest, up-front, and not deceptive. Additionally, it says debt collectors are supposed to treat you with that modicum of respect and dignity that every human being deserves. And yes, the FDCPA is violated just about as often as our drug laws in this country.
Does Paying Off Wakefield Collections Improve Credit Score?
Okay, so most people will want to pay off their debts the minute they are contacted by the debt collector, thinking that this will help improve their credit scores. It makes sense if you think about it.
But it doesn’t. Here’s why.
The only thing that will happen when you pay a debt is that the status of the item on your credit report will change. It shall merely change from an outstanding collection to a paid collection.
A paid collection, however, is still a negative item on your report, and it virtually guarantees you to have a bad credit score. According to Anthony Sprauve, who is a FICO spokesman – Learn more about FICO on my blog post – A guide to Credit Score;
Sprauve says that collections on your credit report can damage and draw your credit score down by as much as 100 points. This means that if your score was at 600, and you end up having a collections entry in your report, this will go down to 500 points, which is a tragedy.
The key to improving your credit score, however, is by removing Wakefield Collections listing from your credit report entirely. This is done through the process of raising disputes. Some companies will help you in raising a dispute with the credit bureaus, to have a specific entry wholly expunged from your record.
Their collection of weapons
Wakefield and Associates function just like any other debt collection agency, and they will go through all sorts of tactics to collect what you owe.
After contacting you in vain, they will proceed to send your credit information to all the credit bureaus, and you shall find a negative tradeline on your credit report.
If you see the negative entry on your report, it means that you have a past-due bill that you need to pay.
It is also likely that the total balance on your account will be aggressively inflated. Debt collectors usually charge sky-high interest for the collection service, and this falls typically on the consumer, which means that your total debt will go up.
Please, don’t stick your head in the sand with the forsaken belief that Wakefield & Associates will just go away. You see, if they’re unable to collect a payment, they have two options.
First, they can turn around and sell your account to yet another debt collector. This new debt collector, of course, will begin calling you, sending letters, and they’ll report more negative information on your credit reports.
Alternatively, and this is an expected result of unpaid collections, is they can sue you as in they’ll file a civil lawsuit against you. If this happens, you should be notified with a court summons.
You must appear because most people don’t. And if you fail to appear, then the judge has no choice but to award a default judgment against you, and in their favor. This is also true if they win their case.
Their goal is to win a judgment against you because then they’ve got you by the short and curlies. Because this can result in wage garnishment, liens being placed against you and or your property, and even asset seizure.
Not to mention a judgment on credit report files, will obliterate your credit score, and virtually overnight. For full details, check out your local legislation, because every state has unique laws.
Here are four steps that you can take once Wakefield and Associates contact you
1. Request for a Debt Validation
The first thing you should do when you receive a letter from Wakefield and Associates, 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 Wakefield and Associates 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.
You see, they’re required to respond by providing you with the documents, paperwork, and evidence that proves this debt is yours. This paperwork will also show you all the details about the account, including who the original lender or creditor was, the dates of account activity, the total balance, and much more.
If they fail to validate your debt, then in compliance with the FDCPA, you’re no longer legally responsible for payment. As in this debt is legally forgiven. Further, they’re supposed to contact all three credit bureaus to have them remove collections from credit report files, concerning this account.
2. Statute of Limitations
If Wakefield and Associates do validate your debt, the next step would be to review the paperwork in details. This will include looking for your last date of account activity and ensure that you are not legally responsible for repayment forever.
The state law regulates the exact amount of time you are legally responsible for repaying a debt. This is called a statute of limitations. It does vary state by state, and if you want to know the full details of your law, then you need to check out your local legislation.
Generally, the required length of time is seven years from the last activity on that account. Once this time window runs out, then following the statute rules, the debt is legally forgiven. In other words, what we are saying is that your responsibility on the debt ends there.
This is also the time in which the debt is removed from your credit report.
Warning. And this is big; the debt collection industry is notorious for re-aging consumer accounts. And for distinct purposes, so they can continue to attempt to collect payment from you, despite your legal obligation ending. This re-aging is frequently done illegally.
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 Wakefield and associates. 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, Wakefield and Associates 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 completely removed 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.
It is never easy dealing with debt collection companies, and you should know that most of these agencies are fined by the government every year for violating the rights of the consumer.
Take note of any agency that tends to be too aggressive, use abusive language, or even threaten you in their effort to collect. These type of behaviors can be grounds for a lawsuit, and it is essential if you are an informed consumer.
The best way, however, to avoid such terrible scenarios with debt collection companies is to ensure that you pay your debts on time.
Other debt collection companies you may need to know: