AFNI / Former Employee
I am posting this to actually try and help you, and I encourage you to keep that in mind and read thoroughly through all that I have to say. I was previously a debt collector employed at Afni, and I am going to let you know what I would do if I received a bill from Afni, or had a listing on my credit report from them, and you can go from there.
Let me first explain the difference between debt purchase collections and 3rd party collections. A debt that has been purchased is a bill that the collection agency now owns (these are the accounts that they paid pennies on the dollar for). With 3rd party collections the original creditor (ex:ATT, Dish Network, Direct TV, Sprint, Verizon, etc) still owns the account.
If Afni was handling one of my outstanding bills, my goal would be to make the bill completely go away (without paying)and be removed from my credit report, or if that was not a possibility, I would want to ensure that it does not affect my credit. The first thing that I would want to find out when I call in is if the account is owned by Afni or if they are a 3rd party collection agency. I would make sure they clearly told me, and not just ‘we are handling the account’, which could be either. If it is an account that they owned I would be claiming identity theft. By getting the account closed as identity theft I would not have to pay it and it would be removed from my credit. I would expect Afni to tell me there is going to be an ‘investigation’, but I would have no worries about any actual legal investigation or myself having to provide proof of what I say. I would expect the debt collector to ask me questions trying to link me to the bill as the actual investigation. I would ask what address the service or bills were sent to, and then make sure that I never confirm that I have any connection to that address. I would expect them to be skip tracing and maybe even bring up names of people that I know. I would never confirm that I know these people, even if they have the same last name. I would be confident that doing this does not put anyone else at risk, even if the debt collector tries to intimidate me of that. Then I would t confirm that they are noting it as possible ID theft, and then I would call back in 1-2 weeks to see if the account had closed. If so, I would request a credit delete letter faxed to me. If the account is not closed, I would call the credit bureaus and claim ID theft and then check back with Afni in another 2 weeks.
I would not attempt identity theft if Afni is a 3rd party. My reason for this is that the original creditor will require things like police reports, proof of residency, and fraud affidavits filed. These companies also have much more information on the account, and they will be able to do a better investigation. Also, they will still be getting a portion of what I pay if I do pay it, and paying the company that you actually owe is the right thing to do.
So, if Afni is the 3rd party collection agency, my concern is then having it removed from my credit, not updated as paid. To do this, it is important to make them think that I learned about them owning the bill by checking my credit, not from receiving a letter from them. I would want to check my credit before I called in to see if it is on there, then I could call in and say ‘I saw this on my credit and I didn’t even know this bill was with you, what address did you send something notifying me to?’ No matter if they have the correct address for me or not, I would tell them they sent it to the wrong address. At some point I would be certain to ask for a credit DELETION because I never received a first notice.
Is it on my credit and are they going to remove it are very important questions to answer if I am planning on paying the bill with Afni. 3rd party collection agencies only have the accounts for a certain time period, and it is typically 6 months or 12 months. When the agencies time frame is up, the listing on the credit will have to be removed and the account is placed with a new agency. The new agency will then be required by law to wait at least 30 days before reporting it. If Afni will not remove it, I would ask them when they received the account and then keep an eye on the account and catch it right when it changes agencies so that I could pay it before the new agency has the chance to report it. If I was planning on doing payment arrangements, I would just set the money aside each month and save it until it switches agencies (why would I give a dime to Afni if they refuse removal?). When it switches agencies I could then pay them what I had saved, and if I still could not pay the bill in full, I would try to work out a payment arrangement were they will agree to not report it.
If I was in a situation that I was trying to use my credit and I could not wait for the account to move to another agency, I would then resort to filing a complaint with the Attorney General and BBB to see if Afni changes its position on doing a credit removal.
No matter what route I had to go, I would keep a couple things in mind. #1. I would be nice to the debt collector. They are just a person doing their job and they do put up with a lot of abuse. Being a jerk to these people will not help out what I am trying to do, but if I am nice to them it may help the cause. A lot of the things they say come from company expectations. If you are mean to them they may use the company policies and the guidelines as a way to get back at you, but if you are nice, they may use them to your advantage. #2. Carefully think everything over and plan everything before making the call. Debt collectors are lied to all the time, and they are trained to catch you up in your lies. EVERYONE slips up when they lie!!! #3. Again, I would be nice to the debt collector. They probably just got done being yelled at by some jerk before I called in, and at certain point this can begin to affect how they talk to others.
No matter how the conversation goes, I would also expect the collector to do something like acknowledge what I say to them, then use an empathy statement, then point out how I am responsible for the bill, then talk about resolving it and a benefit, followed by telling me to grab debit/credit card, or checkbook. For example, if I was disputing a bill with Afni due to poor service with the original creditor, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear them say ‘So the service was bad and you decided to cancel, I’m sure that can be frustrating to have to deal with. However, you are responsible for any bills before you canceled. We could put this behind you and get your credit updated. Grab your debit or credit card, or we accept check by phone’. Once again, I would expect them to ACKNOWLEDGE/USE EMPATHY, POINT OUT RESPONSIBILITY, OFFER TO RESOLVE/BENEFITS, then I would expect to hear the words DEBIT OR CREDIT CARD, or CHECK BY PHONE.
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