Know your rights regarding collection agencies, especially for charges you don't owe

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by Andy Treinen

WHAS11.com

Posted on October 27, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 27 at 6:18 PM

(WHAS11)  If you’ve ever been contacted by a collection agency, you know how stressful it can be.  Now imagine being contacted for a charge that you don’t even owe.  WHAS11’s Andy Treinen investigates your rights as a consumer regarding bogus billing, in this week’s Consumer Watch
 

A quick on-line search of the magazine collection company, North Shore Agency, uncovers a slew of nasty accounts from consumers.  Susan Rissmann said she understands the rip-off accusations firsthand.
 

A viewer, who didn’t want to be identified, started our investigation when she sent a bill and asked, “What’s up with that?”  A collection agency seeking $9.95 to wipe the slate clean, for a magazine she never ordered; the letter calls it an opportunity to settle, or subscribe, before your credit is affected.
 

As consumers, it’s important for us to know our rights; so keep this in mind if you are ever contacted by a collection agency:  If you don’t think you owe the money, you have 30 days to inform them in writing that you want to dispute the charge.  If you do that, they have to prove you owe the money before they can take any further action.
 

Reanna Smith Hamblin said North Shore has an F-rating with the Better Business Bureau, after 263 complaints; 250 of them are for billing or collection issues.  We made several attempts to contact North Shore Agency for its response.  We left messages at several phone numbers; to-date, they have not called us back.
 

Both Rissman and our anonymous viewer got similar letters, after they challenged the charges.  The response letter claims the matter is now closed and North Shore is not a credit reporting agency.
 

But how many people simply pay the $10 fearing a bad credit report?  Rissmann said both she and her daughter enjoy Interview Magazine, and she was still considering a subscription… before the magazine aligned itself with North Shore.
 

But it’s also your responsibility, as the consumer, to call their bluff.  If a collection agency is calling you, it is also your right to ask them to stop.  If they prove in 30 days that you owe the money they can start calling again.
 

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