Handling Collection Disputes

After another successful year of studying (with a pinch of parties) at the University of San Diego, Credit Consulting Services welcomed its favorite intern back for another summer!  My role at CCS this summer has been similar to last summer, but I have taken on additional tasks.

Last summer I was pumping out more blogs and working with the social media side of CCS. This summer I have continued working in marketing, and also helped implement the company’s Client Relationship Management (CRM) database.  CRM allows CCS to identify and manage creditors who need help with their accounts receivable.  As a social butterfly with a creative mindset I enjoy working with the marketing aspect.  Unfortunately not all of my work is fun and games.

frustrated-internet-marketerThere is one particular task I find tedious yet eye-opening: consumer’s disputes on accounts.  This is my first hands-on experience with disputes.  Some consumer’s disputes are valid and the debt is not their responsibility.  More often than not, though, consumer’s disputes are not valid and the consumer knows full well the debt is his/her responsibility.  In my experience in the debt collection industry I have concluded that some people simply don’t want to pay their bills.  For instance, I have come across consumers with various accounts that they dispute multiple times.  A consumer with various accounts clearly has no desire to pay their bills.

I returned to CCS at the end of May, immersing myself into the not-so-wonderful world of e-OSCARE-OSCAR is a program developed as an online solution for processing Automated Credit Dispute Verifications (ACDVs).  It helps CCS process disputes and also helps consumer’s dispute accounts.

Using e-OSCAR and our system in place at CCS, I verify that the information between the two is correct.  Sounds exciting, right?  Although it is less than riveting it is extremely important to CCS.  If a dispute is ignored by the collection agency, the account is deleted from the consumer’s credit and the bill is never paid to the creditor.  Agencies are also at a constant risk of lawsuit if they do not comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  Just in the past year FCRA cases increased 22.7% according to ACA International.

Just how important is e-OSCAR? Well, I and another individual spend at least some, if not all, of our work day responding to these disputes.  Between the two of us, we found that at least 95% of the disputes are unfounded.  Even though nearly all disputes are erroneous, the FCRA requires ALL disputes be responded to within a 30 day window.  If not responded to, the credit account will be deleted.  Consumers hope a collection agency is neglectful so their account will fall through the cracks and be forgotten.  At CCS, no dispute is ever forgotten! In fact, we respond to disputes well before the end of the 30 days.

I must reiterate my final point from Collection Disputes: Good Faith or Bad Faith?: if you have a legitimate dispute, respond within 30 days of receiving the statement from the creditor or the first demand letter from the collection agency.  Do not dispute the bill simply because you did not pay and want it removed from your credit report to get a better credit rating, which falsely misleads the lender into believing you pay your bills on time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II8RX8-zr-I

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Finding a Summer Internship that Works for You and Your Employer

photo(1)As my freshman year at the University of San Diego was coming to a close, I needed to find a summer activity.  I decided working would probably be a better way to spend my summer than sleeping in until noon every day and watching the various shows on ESPN.  And surprisingly my parents agreed with me.

I started brainstorming ideas and began applying for different jobs in my area.  Being “unskilled” I was very limited in my job search.  Many of my friends come home for summer and work in the produce industry, which is essentially the bread and butter of the Salinas Valley.  I wanted to do something besides working in the produce industry, so I reached out to a friend’s father, Rodney Meeks, who is the Vice President at a collection agency in Salinas.

After an exchange of several emails and phone calls, he offered me a marketing/social media internship position at Credit Consulting Services(CCS).  I thought my internship would be like most of my friends where my job basically entailed clerical work that no one else in an office wants to do.  That was not the case.

Week 1: Social Networking Bootcamp

I have spent my first week learning as much as I can about the collection business and the business world in general.  I’ve watched hours of videos in order to educate myself, and learned a lot simply from talking with Mr. Meeks who is an expert in the field and is an endless source for business tips.

Growing up in the digital age, I had no idea the impact social networking has in the business world.  Facebook was always a way to stay connected with friends, but I learned that it is also a marketing component for businesses, including CCS.  He introduced me to LinkedIn and the importance it has in connecting and influencing clients and being introduced to prospective clients.  From there I created my own profile that will help me in the future.  LinkedIn allows me to build my credentials and begin to create a network of business colleagues.

Youtube is a great educational tool if you watch the right videos.  Watching videos on youtube goes beyond cute clips of puppies playing in the snow.  I learned about the benefits of hiring a collection agency and how debt collectors overcome payment objections.

CCS: A Great Place to Work

There are about 30 employees at CCS.  Some new employees can find a new business environment intimidating, but this was not the case for me.  It turns out these employees bptw_logo_2012may be the nicest, most genuine group of people I have encountered in my young life.  After I saw the unwavering smiles these employees have on their face throughout the work day I was put at ease.  Seeing such happy employees, I was not surprised CCS was voted “Best Places to Work in Monterey Bay” by the Monterey County Business Council.

My Takeaway

The plan was to return to San Diego for my sophomore year of college with just enough money to spend on “extracurricular” activities.  These next three months will be a valuable experience that will not only allow me to fund my college expenses, but also build my resume and network system.

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Debt Collection for Dummies

What is debt?  Simply put, debt is a financial obligation that is owed or due.  People believe that debt is what keeps collection agencies in business, but their real job is to protect the rights of their clients/creditors.  Debt collectors are often viewed as conniving, money-hungry scoundrels who are trying to squeeze every penny out of you.  As a college intern at Credit Consulting Services (CCS), I have learned that this could not be further from the truth.

After logging about 8 hours of training videos in addition to listening in on collection calls, I like to think I can help my fellow man learn exactly what CCS does.  First, debt collectors are not some boogeyman-like person you tell your children about so they don’t misbehave.  Instead, I found that debt collectors can range from the young mother of four trying to support her kids to the sweet old lady who has been doing this for nearly 40 years.

Despite popular belief, receiving a call from a debt collector is actually a good thing.  Their job is to help not to harass.  Even if they wanted to be “evil” debt collectors, the Federal Debt Collections Practice Act (FDCPA) protects the consumer from harassment of any sort.

CCS is a third-party agency that is contracted by a company to collect their debts.  In other words, if a consumer is provided a service through credit and has not paid the business or firm for that service then CCS has the ability to step in.  CCS can only act upon this debt if contracted by the business and if the debt is “delinquent”.  Delinquent debt is debt that has not been repaid for 30 days or more.

I found that a common form of debt comes as an overdue medical bill.  Unfortunately, many people do not understand what insurance covers and does not cover.  Patients often do not know that they have to pay for part of their bill.  Fortunately for the consumer and the hospital, a CCS collector will call the patient letting them know that the bill is overdue and advise them on the best way to pay back this debt before it gets out of hand.  The consumer has one less worry and the hospital gets its money.  The icing on the cake is that the hospital does not need to raise prices in order to make up for the unpaid bill.  This saves future consumers money and helps to combat against debt accumulation.  So in a way collection agencies provide an important service to society.  Some may even say we are heroes.  You’re welcome America.

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