Thursday, June 14, 2012

Law Firm/Bill Collector Fails To Track Payments Received, Refuses To Provide Account Statement, Decides To Sell Debt When Balance Nearly Fully Paid

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, The Star Ledger reports:

  • There was a judgment against [Jacqueline Halsey] for nonpayment of the credit card. The debt totaled $1,286.55, including interest and court fees. When Halsey called [debt collector/law firm Eichenbaum & Stylianou] to get more information, a rep asked if she wanted to pay off the debt, Halsey said.

  • I said no, that I didn’t have (the money) at this time. I asked if I could do a payment arrangement of $100 per month but I was told it would have to be more,” said Halsey, 54. “I was told they would have to take steps to get this paid off. I told them to do what they have to do since my amount was not acceptable.”

  • And it did. A lien was placed against Halsey’s bank account in January 2012. In the meantime, Halsey had started sending monthly $100 money order payments to the court. That apparently wasn’t enough. In March, Halsey’s paycheck was garnished $169.03, an amount that would be taken out every two weeks until the debt was satisfied.

  • But the recording of the debt was confusing. On each pay stub, it would indicate the amount being garnished and the remaining balance of the debt. But it didn’t add up, she said. The monthly $100 Halsey had started paying to the court was not reflected in the remaining balance.

  • Halsey said she called Eichenbaum & Stylianou several times in March, asking for an explanation. Halsey said she explained to a rep that the math was wrong when you added together the garnishments and the $100 monthly payments.

  • But it didn’t help. Halsey said the rep told her it had no record of the garnishments or of the money orders Halsey paid to the court, nor was an account statement offered. "(The rep) asked again if I wanted to pay off the balance,” she said. “I told her that her company was already being paid twice and that all I wanted at this point was a statement from Eichenbaum & Stylianou showing payments made and the balance due.” Halsey said she also reached out to the court, which told her to talk to Eichenbaum.

  • The weeks went by and the garnishments continued, but the balance shown on Halsey’s pay stubs remained incorrect. By the beginning of May, it was obvious to Halsey that the court and Eichenbaum still weren’t in sync. Halsey had paid $400 via money orders and $845 through garnishment for a total of $1,245, just $41 less than the total amount owed.

  • But her pay stub showed she still owed $457. “I’m happy to pay it, but I don’t want to overpay,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s fair, and I bet I’m not the only one.”

  • We reviewed the court documents, pay stubs and letters Halsey received from the court and from Eichenbaum. Then we called the debt collector.

  • We reached the rep Halsey talked to, and the rep said the company couldn’t discuss the debt because it’s being sold to a different company. It would be transferred sometime in the next few weeks, the rep said.

  • We asked if a current account statement could be accessed so Halsey could compare what she’s paid and what the firm has received. Nope. The rep said Halsey’s file couldn’t be accessed was because the debt is moving to another company. Has it moved yet? No.

  • So it would seem this company is collecting money on a debt but its employees can’t see how much it has collected to date.

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