Did you know that a careless employee can ruin your life? It’s true. Probably unaware of the potential harm, I was recently a victim of incorrectly being turned over to a collection agency. Just one collection account on my credit reports after bankruptcy would pretty much ruin any chances of getting unsecured credit for another 6 years. Either that, or spend a lot of time, effort and possibly money to correct the damage done – which was through no fault of my own.
How Did My Account Get Sent To Collections?
In late December, I was moving. Despite having so many things to do and so much on my mind, I still managed to remember to return my rental modem to Videotron. For those who don’t know, Videotron is, amongst many other things, a big Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the Montreal area. I had much better things to do on December 20th than fight the holiday shopping crowds at the Fairview Shopping Centre in Pointe-Claire, but I knew it was my responsibility to return that rental modem. The nearest Videotron store was at that mall.
Be Suspicious of New or Incompetent Employees
After waiting in line for over half an hour, I finally got to turn in my rental modem. The guy at the counter must have been new, because he wasn’t familiar with the procedure involved in checking in a modem. Luckily, another more experienced employee gave him some help and commended me on remembering to return the power cord with my modem. Apparently a lot of people forget. So, he gave me a receipt for turning in the modem. I contacted Videotron’s billing department to confirm that my account was canceled and paid to a zero balance.
I thought that was the end of it. Two months later, I received a condescending voicemail message from a collection agency in Laval claiming Videotron sent my account to them for $77 to cover the cost of the modem they claim was not returned. I had kept my Montreal phone number on my Vonage phone line, so it was easy for people to still call me, even if they didn’t have my new phone number. Videotron chose to skip that and just send my account to a collection agency. Probably easier for them rather than try to contact people first.
Always Keep Proof Of Payments & Returns
Of course, the day I was moving was a hectic day. Somewhere, I put that receipt for returning the modem, but where? The guy at the collection agency needed a copy of that, or confirmation from Videotron themselves. Otherwise I would be on the hook for $77. My first thought was my credit report. I’ve been working so hard for the last couple of years to rebuild it, and have absolutely no new negative information since my bankruptcy discharge in June 2008.
Why You Should Not Make Payments You Don’t Owe Money For
To protect my credit rating, I even considered making an immediate payment for $77, even though I know I didn’t owe it. However, the gentleman at the collection agency informed me that if he collects any money, or I can’t provide proof that I don’t owe it (and quickly), that he would be reporting this to my credit profile. So, even if I paid him the money right away, he would still report it? I guess by paying it, I would have been confessing to being guilty of being delinquent on that account.
I frantically searched for that receipt. Normally I’m well organized with receipts these days, but that was one receipt I could not find. I know it’s around somewhere, but time was not on my side! So, I called Videotron and the agent was able to confirm I had returned the modem and emailed the collection agency to let them know of the mistake.
You Must Keep Your Credit Report Super Clean
Wow, that was close! I was really sweating over that one! One thing I remember from my discussion with a mortgage broker is that I need two years of re-established credit after bankruptcy with absolutely NO late payments or collection accounts appearing on my credit reports. If that collection agency had reported the account, I would have had to either wait another 6 years for it to fall off my credit report, or threaten with legal action to remove the incorrect information. I probably could have had it taken off eventually, but why go through all that grief?
This is not the first time I have been pursued for money I don’t owe. Soon after my bankruptcy discharge, I was contacted by Bell and a collection agency to collect on two separate accounts that had been included in the bankruptcy. I had to act quickly to prevent those from reporting to my credit profile as well. If you ever are accused of owing money you don’t owe, take immediate action to get it corrected. And be careful – don’t just offer to pay the bill thinking that will solve the problem. If they collect money, it could still get reported. Besides, why pay money you don’t owe?