I definitely have heated opinions every Sunday when I read Liz Weston’s (@lizweston) “Money Talk” articles. She’s a journalist who has published books on money, so she’s an expert right? Well, she definitely tries to help, while avoiding the unauthorized practice of law because she is not a lawyer. Recently, a reader asked whether they should pay a bill they don’t owe to save their excellent credit rating. You know what I think? I think your blood pressure is the most important number to protect, not your credit score, but I digress.
Ms. Weston’s response, here, to this reader seems decent, “pay the bill, then sue in small claims court.” This will save the credit score, but it certainly does not exhaust the consumer’s full potential legal remedies. I’ll pick up where Weston leaves this poor consumer. My Answer: After you’ve written to everyone and their brother, contact a consumer protection attorney who sues debt collectors under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act for attempting to collect on such bogus debts. This is a federal law so it applies throughout the U.S. Sue the university, and the third party debt collector. If the debt shows up on your credit report in error, you also get the protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which would force the credit bureaus to remove the derrogatory trade line; sue the credit bureaus too.
Bottom line is don’t take bogus debt lying down. Fight back with a consumer protection attorney. Each violation under these federal laws will cost the creditors a statutory fine of $1,000.00, plus attorney fees and costs, which only grows if they blatantly fail to act after you’ve tried to get them to correct their error. And the moral of the story is that no good deed goes unpunished. The story behind this problem started with volunteerism.
Questions can be sent to my office at 5011 Argosy Avenue, Suite 3, Huntington Beach, CA 92649, or by E-mail to: [email protected]