Collection Topics

Harassing Telephone Calls

You have the right to inform a collection agency to stop calling you at work, to stop calling on the weekend, to call only during hours you prefer, or to stop calling you altogether. To do this, you must write to the collection agency and indicate at what hours and what location you may be called. You may also write the agency and inform them to stop all communications or inform it that you refuse to pay. It is best to send your letter return receipt requested and keep a copy.

After receiving your letter, the agency may no longer contact you except as you instructed. Continued contact violates the collection laws and you may file a complaint with our office. However, the collection agency may report the debt to the credit bureau but you may challenge erroneous or disputed information on your credit report with the credit bureau. In addition, the collection agency may file a lawsuit against you if it believes the debt is valid. If you are sued, you have the right to appear and defend yourself in court.

Credit Reporting

A credit report is a compilation of information about your financial history by a consumer reporting agency, also known as a credit bureau. For identification purposes, the report usually contains your date of birth, social security number, home address, and employer. Credit reports list your credit accounts including home mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, student loans, and other lending activity. These reports indicate the amount of the loan or credit limit, whether you paid on time or paid late, and if you have had any defaults including repossessions and foreclosures, tax liens, court judgments, and accounts assigned to collection agencies. There is no legal way to remove accurate negative information from your credit report except over time. Most negative information stays on your credit report for 7 years from the delinquency date. Bankruptcies (Chapter 7 and 11) remain on credit reports for 10 years.

Who Uses Credit Reports

Credit reports may be used by lenders and creditors to decide whether to grant you credit, insurance companies to decide whether to provide you insurance coverage, landlords to decide whether to rent you an apartment, prospective or current employers, and companies who mail you unsolicited credit offers known as inquiries. Employers cannot review your credit report without your written consent.

Reviewing Your Credit Report

You should review your credit report before applying for a substantial loan. For example, if you are thinking about buying a house, obtain a copy of your credit report now and correct any errors before applying for a mortgage. Your mortgage loan might be denied if your credit report contains errors. The errors might include someone else’s credit (similar name), an entry that was never updated or should be removed, or a bill you challenge. Correcting your report early can save you time and trouble. You will be required to provide information identifying yourself before you can obtain a copy of your credit report in order to protect your privacy.

You may order one free credit report per year from each credit bureau. You will be charged for additional copies during the same year and other features such as credit scores. You may order your free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com or by writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. In addition, the credit bureau must notify you once a year if negative information such as late payments is added to your credit report or if a large number of inquiries have been made. This alerts you that you may want to review your credit report. Federal law requires credit bureaus to provide a free copy of your credit report within 60 days upon your request if information from that report was used to deny you credit.

Correcting Errors

If you discover an error on your credit report, write to the credit bureau and explain why the entry is incorrect. Attach copies of canceled checks, statements showing payment in full, and other proof. If the error is not your credit, you may want to send a copy of your driver’s license, social security card, or other identifying information. The credit bureau must investigate your claim within 30 to 45 days, usually by contacting the creditor who reported the information, and then notify you that they have corrected your report or believe the entry is correct. If the credit bureau believes the entry is correct, you may file a 100-word written explanation which will appear on your credit report with the entry you are challenging. This is most common where you feel you have a valid reason for not paying a bill due to poor quality or service.

Contacting the Credit Bureaus

To contact one or all of the 3 major credit bureaus directly, use the information below. There may also be local credit bureaus in your area listed in the yellow pages of your telephone book under “Credit Bureaus.”

Equifax Credit Information Services
P. O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
(800) 685-1111
http://www.equifax.com

Experian (formerly TRW)
P. O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742
http://www.experian.com

Trans Union
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064
(800) 888-4213
http://www.tuc.com

Opting Out of Unsolicited Inquiries

An inquiry means that someone looked at your credit report. This could be a creditor you have asked for a loan, or an unsolicited offer of credit such as those you may receive in the mail for credit cards - also known as prescreening. Creditors may view numerous inquiries as negative since they could mean that you are overextending yourself. If you do not want to receive unsolicited credit offers based on your credit report, contact the credit bureaus individually or call (888) 567-8688 (toll free) to remove your name from the 3 major credit bureaus with one call.

Problems

If you have problems with a credit bureau, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission – the federal agency which enforces the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. As there is no Colorado-state agency with authority to enforce Colorado’s Consumer Credit Reporting Act, you may want to contact a private attorney for help.

Bad Check Law

Colorado law imposes significant penalties on bounced checks so it is important that you read all collection letters and act quickly. A business does not have to run a bounced check through your bank account twice and does not have to contact you directly for payment. You must pay the check amount, plus $20 if the business posted or contracted for an NSF fee, and the greater of $20 or 20% of the check amount as collection costs. This is in addition to your own bank charges.

On a $50 NSF check, you could owe a total of $90 - the $50 check, $20 to the business, and $20 to the collection agency. The collection agency must receive your payment of the total amount due no later than 15 days from the date the collection agency mailed you its collection notice (not from the date you received the letter). This may leave you only a few days to pay the full amount due. If you miss the 15 day deadline, the collection agency may sue you in court for 3 times the check amount plus attorneys fees and court costs. This usually adds at least $200 to the debt. A $50 NSF check could then cost $350 or more.

The bad check law may not apply if your check bounced because your paycheck did not clear or your bank made an error. In addition, if you stop payment on a check because goods you bought are defective, the bad check law is inapplicable.

Other Agencies that May be Helpful

There are a number of other public and private agencies that can assist you if you feel that a business has treated you unfairly, or even fraudulently. The following is a listing of telephone numbers for some of those agencies.

IssueAgencyPhone
 Credit Reports/Credit Bureaus
 Federal Trade Commission
1-877-FTC-HELP or 1-877-382-4357
 Credit Cards/Consumer Loans/Credit Repair
 Uniform Consumer Credit Code
(303) 866-4494
 Automobile Dealers
 Motor Vehicle Dealer Board
(303) 572-5605
 Business Report of a Particular Business
Better Business Bureau
 
  Denver - Inquiries (303) 758-2100
  Denver - Complaints (303) 758-2212
  Colorado Springs/Pueblo (719) 636-1155
  Northern/Western Colorado (970) 484-1348

 

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