It is so ironic to be the Get Out of Debt Guy and get a collection notice yourself. But that’s what happened to me recently.
I guess the good news is since I help people with debt every day I was prepared to deal with it.
The collection claim was that I owed $51 to the State of Delaware for running a toll booth, seven years ago. The account had been referred to an outside collection agency and this was the first time I’d ever heard of this debt.
Just one problem with the claim, I was not living in the U.S. seven years ago and had previously sold the car and turned in my license plates to the State of Maryland before I moved.
On face value the debt collection notice was clearly wrong but I knew I didn’t want to ignore it. So I did exactly what I advise readers to do in How to Dispute and Ask a Debt Collector to Validate a Debt.
I sent a certified, return receipt requested letter to the debt collection agency and asked for proof and validation of the debt. In the meantime I let them know they could not pursue collections.
About a week later I got another letter from the collection agency, this time with a picture of the car running the toll that was to be proof of the validity of the debt. It was their proof of the debt.
It was a bit lame on their part. They essentially just validated they had received a request from the State of Delaware claiming my old license plate ran the toll.
Just one problem, they got the plate wrong and I’ve never owned that make of car. Oh yes, and I was still not living in the U.S. at the time. Clearly this was just one big screw-up on behalf of the State of Delaware and the debt collector.
Since the collector had provided what they felt was validation of the debt they began collections again by sending what they labeled as a “second notice.”
So again I had to roll out the debt validation request but this time to ask the debt collection agency to actually validate the license plate on the car in the photo. You see the picture was not all that great and it just looks like whoever keyed in the plate number, got it wrong. When I spoke to the collector he said, “Yea, I can’t read it clearly.” It was not the old license plate on the car I didn’t own at the time of the toll violation.
Upon receipt of the second debt validation letter the debt collector ceased all further collections, again, and I’m hoping when they took a magnifying glass to the original photo and realized the error. It’s been over a month since I sent the second letter and not a peep out of them.
The point of the story though is that collections can happen to any of us and knowing how to properly deal with it can really minimize the stress you feel when you get a letter like that.
I do have to admit, when I got the first letter I did burst out laughing. Oh the irony.
You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.
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