Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

March 11th, 2012:

It May Not Be NCTUE

I think we’re starting to get a sense for the scam here, as mentioned in my entry for yesterday, 3/10/2012. The scam involves NCTUE, but may have have been initiated by one of several collection agencies, including the AFNI collection agency of Bloomington, Illinois. (AFNI is by no means the only one.) It works like this: a debt collection agency “re-ages” an expired debt (that is, a debt that is older than the statute of limitations) and attempts to collect it. They send notification of the debt to credit reporting services like Equifax, and then attempt to collect the debt, using the bad credit mark as a sort of threat. Enough people apparently send such agencies money to keep the business model alive.

That sounds illegal to me, but it can get worse: Some collection agencies have been known to invent debt from whole cloth and then attempt to collect it, which, of course, is a species of fraud and should be prosecuted.

I’m not sure what happened in our case, since Carol and I have never let any bill go unpaid. Nor am I sure (yet) that this is what happened. We’re still looking into it, and as you might expect, not much is going to be resolved on a weekend.

There is evidently some connection with Verizon Wireless, which Carol and I contracted with for the very first time ever last fall, when we bought new smartphones. Needless to say, we haven’t missed any payments. AFNI apparently bought some ancient debt from companies that Verizon later purchased back in the 1990s, and has been trying to collect on it. (More here.) The number of accounts purchased by AFNI is immense.

I’m seeing a lot of reports of letters received in Colorado over the past couple of days, so whatever agency is doing this may be mounting an effort on a state-by-state basis, and this week it was just our turn.

What this may mean (again, we don’t know yet) is that some collection agency may have submitted a mass of fraudulent debt notices to credit reporting services (like Equifax’s NCTUE) which is now dutifully notifying people that a negative entry has been added to their credit reports. If that turns out to be the case, NCTUE is not scamming at all, but just doing what they’re supposed to do, and may be required to do by law. We may object to how they do it, but it may not be NCTUE engaging in malfeasance, but the collection agencies.

Be sure to read up on how to deal with collection agencies generally, and send no money to any of them unless you’re absolutely sure that you owe it. Fight them like a cornered animal. Here’s one report from a person who did it successfully.

Good luck.