Do We Pay Them?

Joe has a leftover fee on his credit report from an apartment he lived in. The collection agency told him has to pay them instead of the apartment complex. Is that legit?

QUESTION: Joe in North Carolina found out a collection agency put a lien on his credit report for $854. It was a leftover fee from an apartment he lived in, so he called the collection agency and was told he has to pay them instead of the apartment complex. Is that legit, or can he go to the people to whom he owes the money and settle with them?

ANSWER: You can try, but it’s probably going to be hard. They will probably refer you back to the collector. It doesn’t really matter who you settle it with. If you offer them $500 and they say they must collect the full amount, it sounds legit in terms of them not being scam artists. But it’s not a true statement because anybody can take less for a debt. They just have to check with the other people.

Tell them if they want the money, you have $500 on the table to offer them. Perhaps they should call their client and ask if they want to accept that. That’s how I would talk to them. Of course, you can call the former landlord and say you have $500. If they will give you a letter stating that the amount settles this debt and cancels the collection on your credit bureau report, you’ll bring them the $500 today. Either one is fine.

If you are dealing with a collection agency, before you send them money, you have to have in writing what the amount is that they will accept. So far they haven’t agreed to an amount. Tell them that if they want the money today, you can wire it to them today, but they have to send you an email saying they will accept $500. You can have that discussion again with the collection agency or you can call the original people that you got sideways with and try to settle with them.

I imagine they are not going to do it, but you could say that if they want to refer you back over there, at least let them know you’ll do it. I don’t care who you deal with, you just have to get the deal done. But if they won’t do it, then just hold off until you’ve either got the money or until you talk them into taking it. But do not give anybody any money until you have it in writing that they will take that amount. Then settle the debt and have that taken off your credit report as fast as you can.