I am unable to post to your blog for some reason, but I have been reading your blogs and you have some great information. I hope you are able to provide some insight on some of my questions regarding Midland Credit.
My problem is that I have a super old account from Beneficial Household Finance from 2007. My DOFD was 5/2007 and at that point the debt was approximately $2800.00. In 2009, I understand that HSBC closed Beneficial Household. In May of 2010 Midland purchased the debt (or so that is the date that is stated on my credit reports that they purchased the debt). In December of 2010 they said I made a payment. And I kept racking my brain to try to figure out why I would have made any kind of payment to these scumbags. Perhaps I was just trying to do the right thing. So since I had paid off some accounts through a non-profit organization "Consumer Credit Counselors" I called and checked with them.... Sure enough they made a payment going to Midland for my Beneficial account in December of 2010. So now I have renewed the SOL and it will be on my credit report for 3 more years. Midland is now saying that I owe them $9700.00!!! How can they escalate to such an outrageous amount? And then just this year they started sending those ridiculous offer letters and calling twice a day on my phone, but I never answer them. Now it seems that they have recently stopped or slowed down. Is this a sign that they are getting ready to sue me?
This was an account that was a revolving type of account like a credit line, but it was not a credit card. I am in Nevada so does that mean that the SOL is 4 years (for an open ended account) or 6 years (because it was a contractual account).
So I will get to my questions based on the information above, and if you need more info from me in order to answer them, please let me know:
1) What do you think the likely-hood of Midland getting ready to sue me is?
2) Is it possible that they may give up and sell the debt? If so, what happens next?
3) They have the last recorded payment from CCCS as 12/2010, but how likely is it that they will have documented proof that it is for me and to be applied to this account?
4) Do you think the SOL for an account such as this would be 4 years or 6?
5) Since Beneficial closed in 2009 and Midland purchased the debt in mid-2010 how likely do you think it is that they have documentation of the debt?
6) Should I just continue to play Ostrich on this for now since they have been unsuccessful in contacting me?
7) Should I contact a consumer protection attorney and discuss the possibilities with them before I get served?
8) Is there any way I can be proactive now (without making payment arrangements on a debt that is 3x the amount that I actually owe)?
9) How can a $2800 debt turn into 3x the amount originally owed?
10) What are my options to fight them and get this off my credit report?
Thanks for your input!
For starters, thanks for letting me know which state you're in. State laws often apply and you wouldn't believe the number of people who don't include their state in their question.
I get from the tone of your letter than your credit report and scores is the most important thing to you here and on that front I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the date Midland first purchased and reported your debt has no effect whatsoever on the debt's reporting period. The credit reporting period for most debts, including this one, is seven years from the date of first delinquency. That means that if you made your last payment to Beneficial Household Finance in May of 2007, the credit bureaus will remove the account records--including all collections associated with that particular debt--in November 2014. That means you've got six months to wait until federal law requires the credit bureaus to remove Beneficial Household's original charge-off and the Midland collection account that resulted from the charge-off. The payment your credit counseling agency made has no effect on this. It comes off in six months, paid or unpaid.
That being said, lets get to your questions. I'm doing them out of order so that I don't have to go back and rehash anything and this can be as simple as possible.
Do you think the SOL for an account such as this would be 4 years or 6?
Credit cards are generally considered open accounts as far as the statute of limitations is concerned. Sometimes debt collectors who want to sue will try to argue that the debt is, in fact, a written account since the SOL for written accounts tends to be longer. Your state's statutes pretty clearly define credit card debt as an open account. That means your statute of limitations on this debt is four years. This gives Midland seven months to sue you or hang up their hat.
You can find Nevada's stance on this here. Read NRS 97A.060 at the very top of the page.
How can a $2800 debt turn into 3x the amount originally owed?
The fine print of your original credit card agreement contained a clause stating that, by agreeing to the card, you were also agreeing to the accrual of interest that would continue even if you defaulted on the account. So even though the account is no longer open, credit card interest has been accumulating ever since 2007. That's why your debt is now so much higher than it was when you originally defaulted.
What do you think the likely-hood of Midland getting ready to sue me is?
That depends on a wide variety of factors. If they're serious about suing you, they'll likely start to investigate you. They need to know if you are employed or receive income they can't garnish (such as Social Security) and they'll want to know if you own property they can place a lien on or if you are just a renter. Any collection agency, to increase its chances of actually getting paid, is going to go after the people who are most likely to have the funds to actually pay the debt. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, and if you don't have assets Midland can seize, you may not be worth the time and money it takes to drag you to court.
You are, however, dancing around the danger zone. Not only do you have a debt high enough to elicit a lawsuit, you're nearing the end of the statute of limitations in your state. Most collection agencies will throw everything they've got at you and use lawsuits as a last resort, since they're left holding the bag for the legal fees if they can't collect the judgment.
Keep in mind that Midland can sue after the statute of limitations expires. The case would get dismissed on the grounds of an expired SOL, but only if you bring the expired SOL to the court's attention. I don't know Midland's policies well enough to say whether or not they habitually file out-of-statute lawsuits.
Since Beneficial closed in 2009 and Midland purchased the debt in mid-2010 how likely do you think it is that they have documentation of the debt?
A record of the debt exists, otherwise you wouldn't have Midland on your back. But Midland will need more documentation than just its word to prove this case in a lawsuit (if you show up to defend yourself). If they sue you and you don't show up, they win by default without needing any proof. Most debt collection lawsuits end this way. If I were to guess, I'd have to say its highly unlikely that they have the kind of documentation to prove a case against you if you respond to a summons and demonstrate your intention to fight the lawsuit all the way down. Collection agencies buy debts in bulk and thus often have no records to support their claims--just a name and the amount the person supposedly owes.
They have the last recorded payment from CCCS as 12/2010, but how likely is it that they will have documented proof that it is for me and to be applied to this account?
The documented proof that the payment occurred is that the payment occurred. They should have no problem proving that via electronic records. As for whether or not the payment was sent from the credit counseling agency specifically for your account...that's trickier. It's an interesting claim to challenge because, if they can't prove it, that means the SOL has technically already expired. This is just my opinion, but this seems like a very weak defense because its relatively easy for them to request those records from the credit counseling agency that made the payment in the first place.
Should I contact a consumer protection attorney and discuss the possibilities with them before I get served?
You're clearly worried about this otherwise you wouldn't have contacted me. The fact remains, however, that while you're well within your rights to consult an attorney, he/she isn't going to be able to save you from a danger that simply hasn't presented itself yet. I know its agonizing to wait and see what Midland does, but its a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring an attorney who's going to charge you a couple hundred dollars to tell you exactly what I'm telling you right now for free. Or worse--one who'll be shady enough to refer you to a bankruptcy attorney. If you opt for an attorney, be very, very careful taking that route. There's some thumping good lawyers out there who genuinely care about the little guy, but there's just as many who see you as just one more way to line their wallets. Do your homework on this one.
Should I just continue to play Ostrich on this for now since they have been unsuccessful in contacting me?
They haven't been unsuccessful in contacting you. By your own admission they are calling and sending letters to your home address. If it were me, I'd keep a record of this. Every call you get, write down. Every letter you get, save. This way, if they try to gutter sue you and get a default judgement using a fake or outdated address, you'll have proof to use in court to have the judgment vacated later on. So no, do not become an ostrich. Become a hawk. Watch and wait and pay attention. Because guess what? In your state, failure to properly serve a summons is grounds to vacate a judgement. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do your best to fly under the radar, if you catch my drift. Making contact with them now, right on the cusp of the expiration of the SOL, would probably be unwise...
Is there any way I can be proactive now (without making payment arrangements on a debt that is 3x the amount that I actually owe)?
Not to my knowledge. The time for proactivity passed quite a while ago. At this point, even paying the original amount isn't going to clean up your credit. It won't even leave you with a "paid in full" mark on your credit report. If you paid the original amount now, the collection agency would likely just sell the remaining unpaid balance to another collection agency and this nightmare would begin anew. Your best way of being proactive is to know your rights and exercise them when and if it becomes necessary to do so.
What are my options to fight them and get this off my credit report?
Well, as we've seen, this thing should come off your credit report on its own fairly soon. If it doesn't, that means its been re-aged by Midland. That's when you can send a nice letter informing them that it is against the Fair Credit Reporting Act for them to continue reporting an account 7 years and 180 days beyond the date of your payment. Failure to adhere to those rules leaves them subject to a consumer lawsuit. Here, I'll even quote you the statute: You can find this under section 605 in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, page 22
Information excluded from consumer reports. Except as authorized under
subsection (b) of this section, no consumer reporting agency may make
any consumer report containing any of the following items of information...
Accounts placed for collection or charged to profit and loss which
antedate the report by more than seven years.
I always recommend that people reach out to the collection agency for corrections first because, while you have every right to dispute the item as "obsolete" with the credit bureaus, you're once again in a situation where the collector has the ability to verify the lie and suddenly it becomes that much harder to dispute. Once they've "investigated" once, federal law doesn't require the credit bureaus to investigate a second time. If its any comfort, from what I know of Midland, they're pretty good about deleting their tradelines on time.
Now, this brings us back to that gargantuan debt they claim you owe. Midland, in my experience, will occasionally shelve debts rather than selling them to other debt buyers. In other words, once the SOL and reporting period have expired, the debts seem to disappear as well (that's weird for a collection agency, but I have seen Midland do this before, so you have to give them at least some credit for that) But we have to face the facts, your debt is large and the odds are someone will have an interest in collecting it. If Midland passes the debt on to a junk debt buyer, it's very possible that this new collection agency will magically insert itself into your credit report. Be prepared for this and regularly monitor your credit from now on. You can get a free annual credit report from each credit bureau without a credit card by using the Federal Trade Commission's approved website for pulling free credit reports--AnnualCreditReport.com. Since you can get a report from each agency, I have always found it most prudent to pull one report every four months from a different agency. Unless, that is, you want to spring for a credit monitoring service.
One more thing, the expiration of either the credit reporting period or the statute of limitations is not going to cause Midland (or any other debt collector) for that matter, to simply give up on that debt. Once you're out of the woods on the lawsuit front, you may want to consider sending a cease and desist letter to put a stop to the incessant collection calls and letters once and for all. And for the love of all that is holy to you, keep a paper trail to back yourself up with the expired SOL/credit reporting period. This is incredibly important if a future collector ever decides they want to reinsert this nastiness into your credit record.
Occasionally I'll put links to other related articles that readers might find helpful at the bottom of certain posts, but the ones I'm including today are specifically related to you and your situation. This post has already become the longest Q &A I've ever done, and I don't want it to turn into a novel. Plus, there is a cheesesteak waiting for me in the kitchen and the very smell of it is fogging up my better judgment.
Best of Luck,
Send a Cease and Desist Letter to Debt Collectors
What Are Your Odds of Being Sued By a Collection Agency?
Dealing with Midland Credit Management
Removing Re-Aged Collection Accounts From Your Credit Report