I hope you are doing well this Friday — almost the weekend… :)

It has been a little while since we spoke about credit reporting errors and I want to share a few resources with you but first let me tell you one of my personal credit reporting stories — and this is one of the reasons why I started doing consumer litigation.

I had a child who had several MRIs in a week and I thought I had paid for all of my deductibles.  Normally that is paid when you check your child in….

A few weeks later I got a letter from a Montgomery, Alabama, collection agency called Holloway Credit Solutions, LLC, saying that I owed a couple hundred bucks on a bill from Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.

I called the agency and told them I didn’t think this was right.  They insisted I owed the money.

I told them I would call Children’s Hospital and check it out.

Turns out I did owe the bill.

So I called Holloway back the next day and paid it over the phone.

The very next day Holloway put this on my credit report as a paid collection account.

I was not amused.

I called Holloway back and was told that “Yes, we received your money and yes we put this on your credit report anyway.”

I asked “Why would you do that?  I told you I thought I had paid my deductible — it was confusing with multiple MRIs in the same week — but as soon as I found out I owed more money I paid it.”

Holloway’s response was “Too bad.  We put this on their because we are able to do it so we did it.”

“You are hurting my credit report by doing that.”

Their response?  ”We don’t care.  Because we have the power to hurt you, we are going to hurt you.”

I never tell people I deal with that I’m lawyer but I broke my rule here.  ”I’m a lawyer and all I do is sue companies that hurt people.  Do you really want to act this way towards me?”

The response was “We don’t care.  We are going to leave this on your credit report to hurt you.”

“Let me speak to your supervisor.”

The supervisor was even worse.

It was then that it hit me — If these companies will treat me, a lawyer who sues companies, this way, then how much worse will they treat people who are not lawyers?

I decided to start researching this area of the law more intently — I had helped personal injury clients with collection issues and credit report errors over the years but had never studied this area of the law intensely.

The more I read and studied and attended conferences the more I knew this was an area of rampant abuse and very few lawyers were out there to help people.

So I disputed this account and finally Holloway took it off my credit reports.  By the way, if you have any Holloway accounts or other collection accounts, consider sending the letter we discuss here — http://www.alabamaconsumer.com/2012/04/simple-letter-to-send-to-debt-collectors/ and remember that collectors hate to accurately credit report — http://www.alabamaconsumer.com/2012/04/why-collectors-hate-to-mark-your-account-as-disputed-on-credit-reports/.

If you would like to see a number of articles (and videos) on correcting credit reports, you can find them here including articles that contain sample dispute letters to send to the credit reporting agencies (what I had to do to get the Holloway account off of my credit report).  http://www.alabamaconsumer.com/practice-areas/credit-report-errors/

This fits with that old expression from Napoleon Hill — within every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater benefit.  I was very annoyed with this arrogant collection agency but it was a turning point in my career where I started helping more and more consumers sue collection agencies and credit reporting agencies.

So I guess I owe a big “Thank You” to Holloway for helping me to see the light…. :)

Well, I hope that this email has been helpful to you and I wish you a wonderful last weekend in April…. Can you believe next week is May?  Enjoy and we’ll connect next week….

Best wishes….

John

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I Found Myself In Criminal Court Speechless….

by John Watts on April 20, 2012

I hope this Friday finds you doing great.

I don’t practice criminal law. Well, I have twice in 17 years.

Once I helped out a friend of my family and didn’t realize I did something taboo — I agreed to bail my client out of jail.

Apparently that is a big no no in the criminal defense world. No one told me! (Until after I had done it….)

That was about 16 years ago.

Never make that mistake again.

Well a few months ago I found myself representing a client on a traffic violation.

Not much choice — a relative.

Except I have no idea what goes on in criminal court.

I’m shocked to hear the judge say “I give everyone jail time for any traffic violation but if you pay the fine and court costs, I’ll not make you actually go to jail.”

OK, that’s not what I was expecting.

The District Attorney was a nice guy — we had worked out a deal so the case would be dropped.

“What do I say when we go up there” I ask him.

He casually responds — “Just say what we would normally say. You’ve done this before dozens of times, right?”

That would be a negative.

He was surprised.

I say “I’ve had lots of jury trials over personal injuries, wrongful deaths, and other civil issues but only went to criminal court once.”

I left out the part about bailing my client out — don’t know what the statute of limitations is on that offense….. :)

He looked at me.

Then, taking pity, he said “I’ll do the talking. You just stand by me, ok?”

I agree — sounds like a brilliant idea as I’ve been watching this judge nail people with 30 day jail sentences for the most minor of traffic violations.

Some of his comments seemed to me to be way over the top…. But I guarantee you everyone in the courtroom will be driving under the speed limit in that county!

It goes fine — DA does what he promised me — judge does not impose any guilty sentence.

Here is the point of all of this:

When we are in an unfamiliar environment, sometimes we don’t know what to say or do.

Put me in a courtroom on a civil case (not domestic relations) and I’m very comfortable — been doing that for 17 years. Put me in a criminal courtroom, not really…. :)

If you, or a friend or family member, are put in a situation of dealing with a debt collector calling or writing, you may feel the same way.

“What do I say” or “What do I not say” etc…

We have two articles on our website Alabama Consumer that might be helpful.

How to talk to debt collectors

and

A simple dispute letter to send to debt collectors.

You can read on the website the articles — just click on the links.

If you like the articles please comment or share or go to the video (on the talking with collectors) and comment on it or “like” it.

Also, if you would like these two articles in PDF, just reply back and let me know and I’ll be happy to send them to you in that way.

I know sometimes I like to have hard copies of stuff off the web…

I hope these articles are helpful to you to give you some ideas on what to do if you are in the unfamiliar arena of dealing with a debt collector.

Have a great weekend!

John


John G. Watts
Watts & Herring, LLC
301 19th Street North
Birmingham, Alabama 35203

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Consumer Power — Three New Tow Truck Driver Friends…..

April 5, 2012

I hope this first Thursday in April finds you doing well. Can you believe how fast this year is going? Let me tell you a story of the past few days with meeting three tow truck drivers. On Saturday night my family was driving into town when our van lost power and started smoking on [...]

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Suing Abusive Debt Collectors — Terrible or Heroic?

March 15, 2012

I hope you are doing great this morning!  I’ll admit it — I like the super hero movies (Batman, Iron Man, etc).  My kids and I are excited about the new Avengers movie and the new (last one!) Dark Knight movies.  So maybe that has affected my thinking about this week’s article…. —————————— Sometimes debt [...]

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If You Owe Student Loans, Make Sure You Check The Status

March 8, 2012

I hope this email finds you having a good week. Hard to believe it is March already…. Student loans have been in the news a lot lately — primarily due to the large number of people (younger and older) who are out of deferment/forbearance and who are in default.  Many economists are worried that the [...]

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