Andrew Katzman recognizes that his story – debt collector ends up paying a bill – is one of life’s ultimate ironies.
“It is incredible irony, almost a paradox, isn’t it?” Katzman told Debt.org. “These guys (debt collectors) kept harassing me over a bill I didn’t owe, and then they end up having to pay me because of it. I thought it was great.”
The story of Katzman’s troubles with three debt collection agencies is a familiar one – paperwork problem between doctors and an insurance company – though him receiving $1,700 for being harassed, is a little unusual.
Katzman had a procedure done at a hospital in New York that he thought should have been covered by his insurance company. The insurance company asked for more paperwork from the hospital before it would pay. The hospital, in turn, asked to be paid, while it looked for the paperwork.
Katzman, who now lives in Florida, had to intervene, and eventually the insurance company got what it needed and paid the $500 bill.
Phone Never Stopped Ringing
Unfortunately, the hospital’s accountants already had turned the matter over to collections, and Katzman’s phone started ringing soon afterward. For the next four months, it rang … and rang … and rang.
“They had me on autodial and kept leaving this urgent-sounding message that made it sound like something life-threatening had happened,” Katzman said. “The message said ‘We have an important matter to discuss with you. Call us immediately.’
“So when I finally called them back, and they said it was a collection agency, and they wanted me to pay a bill I knew I already had taken care of … well, that got me mad.”
He told the collection agencies that the bill was paid and asked them not to call him anymore, but his cellphone kept ringing. He estimates they called him two or three times a day, 10-15 days a month. They called him at home early in the morning and late at night. Several times, they called him at work.
Rules Were Broken
Most times, he let the calls go to voice mail, but occasionally he would answer and ask them again to stop calling. When the phone still kept ringing, Katzman went online and looked up the rules for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
“That’s when I realized these guys were breaking rules almost every time they called,” he said. “One guy told me there was a lawsuit pending against me unless I paid right then. A woman told me she had the bill right in front of her and that I owed it and asked me would I be paying with credit card or check today?
“They were just so aggressive and demanding and wouldn’t listen to me at all. That’s when I decided I had had enough, and it was time to put a stop to this nonsense.”
Katzman hired a law firm to write a cease-and-desist letter to the collection agency. He also turned over the careful notes he had taken during phone calls from the collection agencies. The calls stopped almost immediately, and with the help of his copious notes, his attorneys won a settlement, without ever having to go to court. Katzman took home $1,700.
“When the collection agencies start calling, the key is to know the FDCPA rules,” Katzman said. “Even if you do owe them money, which I didn’t, but even if you do, you still have rights. Tell them you want to do all the correspondence via mail and to stop calling.
“And if you quote them the FDCPA rules and they still don’t stop, go get a lawyer.”
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.