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Negotiating and avoiding legal action for a late credit card bill

Seattle, WA |

I have just received a letter regarding a delinquent credit card bill near the amount of $1500 (the amount I had originally spent on this card was less than $900). I haven't made payments on this bill for a very long time due to a lack of funds. This letter claims that the credit card company has permitted the collection agency (based in Pennsylvania) to "make a determination" of my assets in an attempt to pursue legal action against me. They've given me ten days from the date of the letter to respond. The letter states that they want to reach an "amicable settlement" with me. I would really like to properly negotiate this in order to pay as low an amount as possible. How should I handle this matter? Also, what do they mean my "make a determination of your assets"? This sounds rather invasive.. Thank you for your advice.

The account was opened in 2004. I don't think I've ever made a payment on it because I lost my job shortly afterward and wasn't in a position where I could afford to. The letter also stated that they wanted to reach an "amicable agreement" with me. This makes me think that it might be best to call and attempt negotiating the amount owed. I've read in a few sources that this can lead to a positive outcome because collectors often just want to get something rather than nothing, and that at the end of the month they're more willing to negotiate in order to meet a monthly quota. The answers indicate that I should contact a lawyer, but the letter sent by the agency states that I have ten days to respond (tomorrow being the tenth day) & I'd be willing to pay part of this bill in one sum as long as they sent me a confirmation of the agreement in writing and marked it down as the debt being settled so as not to further harm my credit score. Would it be reasonable of me to try and negotiate this myself?

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

How long is a 'very long time'? Six months, six years? The length of time since you made a payment is significant. Do not respond to their letter until after consulting with an attorney. Do not admit to owing the debt. Do not promise to pay. Search the Avvo directory or go to www.naca.net to look for a consumer lawyer that handles credit card cases. I don't know Washington law, so I cannot advise you. In Florida I have successfully fought credit card cases with the collection agency or bank getting nothing. You need to find an attorney in Washington that has experience in this area. The Statute of Limitations that applies to your case could be based on Washington law but it could be based on some other state depending on the language of the credit card agreement. Some states have short limitations periods of three years or less.

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Posted

Just to add to Mr. Chen's answer, the "determination of assets" language is there to make you nervous about their invasion of your privacy. (And it worked). This is to try to induce you to call them and settle. What they mean is that they probably paid the colection agency to run a credit check and asset report on you. Many companies provide this service which mainly consists of checks of public records to see if you own real property, motor vehicle or boat; to find any judgments against you and any prior bankruptcy filings. They may also check to see if you have filed any lawsuits or if you are being sued by anyone else. Its a way for the collection agency to see if its worth suing you -that is, even if they win, will they be able to collect the judgment. You should definitely contact a lawyer (make sure they offer a free consultation) before you call the company. In debt collection, they may be able to use anything you tell them over the phone or in person in a lawsuit brought against you.

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