Collections Law/Collection Agency or Attorney?
I sure hope you can give us a bit of advice.
My sister, just after she turned eighteen, opened up a bank account. A long story later, my mother had to write a check on her account, overdrew it a few hundred, didn't tell her and forgot about it.
Our mom got sick shortly after that and the family move across the country. My sister forgot about the account, too, and never received collection calls(likely they couldn't find her, given the move).
Fast forward five years later, she received a phone call this morning from someone claiming to represent a lawyer and said she would be served to appear in court, if she didn't call within two hours and settle her debt.
She did call. They said she'd have to go to court, pay $3500, maybe go to a checking class, and terrified the poor thing. They, conveniently, after 'making calls', said they could lower it to $1200. Panicked, she offered the only $200 she had to her name, with a promise to pay the remaining thousand when she's next paid, in two weeks.
When she called me, crying, because she now can't pay her electric bill and had no idea how she'd come up with the rest, I decided to investigate.
Many people have complained about the company, Cambridge Asset Management & Associates. The other posters have said they were nothing but a collection agency, scaring people into paying, 'right here, right now,' with threats of a lawsuit right around the corner.
I can find no mention of the lawyer on their website and they refused to tell me which collection agency they bought the debt from (I've so far tracked the debt through four other agencies and am waiting to hear from the last). I can't find them through the Better Business Bureau.
My sister wants to pay her debt, but I'm concerned this is a scam.
Is there anything my sister can do to see if these people are legitimate?
First, stop that payment. Depending on which State she is in the debt may be "Out of Statute". Making a payment brings it back "into Statute" More on that later.
Cambridge Asset Management is what is affectionately called a "Junk Debt Buyer" or "JDB"- they purchase the charge offs from banks, credit card companies and other lenders for a few cents on the dollar and try to collect 100 cents on the dollar or more. Threats of dire action are their standard. If this debt went 5 years without a payment the chances are good that it has gone past the Statute of Limitations in her State, meaning while she technically owes the money she has a legal excuse not to pay it. By scaring a quick payment out of her the JDB can bring the debt back into Statute and can successfully sue her for the debt.
Pay $3500 for a $200 debt that is 5 years old? That seems a bit Draconian. If she does go to Court I bet the JDB will not get that as a Judgment just on the basis of "unjust Enrichment" (meaning why stop at $3500, why not go straight to a Million?).
The collectors at the JDB are well versed in how to find what scares a person most and use that information well. I suggest you and your sister pay a visit to a web site I set up several years ago that shows people just how to handle the situation your sister is in. There are many people there who have "been there, done that" who are glad to help. On that site you will see a series of essays I wrote over the years. The collection is called the "Flyingifr Method of Aggressive Credit Repair". Start by reading that. The site is www.debtorboards.com and on that site I am Flyingifr.