I checked my credit recently and found a collection from a company I'd never heard of - Afni. This collection account dropped my FICO score something like 70 points - MAJOR damage. This makes it almost impossible for me to get new credit, and could cause my current credit holders to increase my rates.
I investigated further by calling Afni (http://www.afniupsourcing.com/). I finally got someone on the phone who claimed I owe Amp'd Mobile $262. Amp'd Mobile went out of business in 2007. I paid my final bill. The only thing I ever got from them in the mail was the bankruptcy notice for the company. Not only was my final bill paid - I was on auto-pay all along with this company. So if there was additional money due they certainly could have simply taken it out of my account!
I explained to Afni that I paid my final bill, and that now they had ruined my credit AND wanted me to pay money that was never due for a company that is out of business. Of course, the response was "This is not my concern." I was offered a "deal" of paying it off for $150. Of course this would not remove the entry on my credit report - only change it to paid. If you know about credit you know this doesn't particularly do anything meaningful or positive to your score. So ... even if I allow them to extort this money from me - I still suffer from this lie for 7 years!
I've decided to fight it. I called Afni back several times [protected]). I told them I'm disputing the debt and that I wanted proof faxed to me. After being told by a rude agent that they would fax the "numerous" bill statements they have, they instead faxed me a letter on Afni letterhead essentially saying "This letter confirms you owe us $262." Uh, no. I called back. Finally reaching someone polite (on try 4), she informed me that I did open a dispute, and that Afni will now investigate the account. If there is any proof (which she said the phone agents don't have access to!!), they will mail it to me within 30 days.
These people are, clearly, liars. Three agents told me they had my bill copies on their screen. Now they don't know if they have proof or not. Either way - the bottom line is - step one is call and dispute the validity of the debt.
If (when) this does not resolve it I intend to make complaints to the Attorney Generals of all involved states and take any other measures necessary to ensure it is resolved.
I pay my bills, and I've spent many years building good credit. Too many years to have it ruined by a dishonest collector like Afni. I have to imagine that there are many interviews on the net outlining Amp'd's disastrous billing system - including an admission by the company's own CEO - will strengthen my case.