Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What to do when your creditor disappears

Twitter question of the day is from @djamesUBMS:
What should one do when paying a creditor and the company (whoever owns your overdue account) disappears or folds?
Background is: Visa credit card that went to collections, we made the effort to find the account after checking our credit, payed it down very quickly. Then all of a sudden, there was no working number and the website was useless. We still owe some cash, but can't pay it down because we can't find the company.

Be careful here and don't assume you're off the hook because you can't find the company. Often when a company folds, it keeps a collections arm open to recover money that it is owed so that it can pay off its remaining debts. In other cases, those debts are acquired by a collections firm for pennies on the dollar, and they in turn spend their time hunting you down. By paying little for the debt and collecting as much as they can on it, they make a profit.

With that in mind, you need to be proactive by making as much of an effort as possible to find the creditor and pay the bill off. If you can't get in touch through conventional means, Google the collection agency to see what you can find out. Pull your credit report again in a month or so and see if there are any new delinquencies being reported. If so, call the creditor that reported them; if not, call the credit bureau and ask someone if they know whether the company you owe has gone out of business.

As a precautionary measure, you might want to write the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) a letter to add to your credit file explaining that you've made significant attempts to contact the creditor but haven't received a response back.

In the meantime, in lieu of making monthly payments, set aside the money you'd be paying on that bill in an account where you won't touch it. If and when the creditor shows back up, you don't want to be without the money to pay them off. If they don't show back up, you've stashed away some extra cash for other goals. Good luck.