August 01, 2019
Should I settle my debt with Bank of America or American Express?
Bank of America and American Express are first party debt collectors, meaning that if and when they file suit against you, they are the original lenders seeking to collect their own debts. Thus, these are often tougher cases to beat in court. However, before agreeing to settle or pay even a first party debt, there is information you should have or verify.
First, you should always be cautious when speaking to any debt collector on the phone. They will usually require extremely private information from you to verify who you are, or looking for information they may not have, such as your address or place of employment. Meanwhile, you will never get simple information from them, such as the representatives first and last name, employee identification number, direct number, etc. When you are at this kind of a disadvantage, it is better to tell them absolutely nothing and insist that any and all communication be in writing. If they then ask you to confirm your mailing address, you should always refuse. The true and valid debt collector should have it. DO NOT be persuaded to bypass this rule. Debt collectors are trained in how to play off your concerns about what could happen or make you think they are there to help. They are there to collect money. They are not on the lookout for your best interests.
Second, you should ensure that you have true and correct copies of the documents supporting their claims against you before ever agreeing to what is owed or how you will pay them. If you went to a restaurant, you would not just look at the total of the bill at the end of a meal. You would look to ensure that so much as an extra iced tea wasn’t added to your bill if it was not ordered and received. Well, this is the same thing. You may not need to read over every charge of every bill as you may do monthly when you receive credit card statements, but you should know what is being charged, claimed, and what it is related to before you decide whether or not to pay it.
Third, make sure that any resolution you agree to is in writing, and that it fully resolves the debt such that it won’t be resold to someone else or that they can pursue you for the remaining balance. What you want to prevent is a judgment being entered against you, or perhaps even the chance that you will be sued again. In Georgia, a case may be dismissed with or without prejudice. “Without prejudice” means that the case can be refiled at a later time even though it is the same case or controversy. So, before signing or agreeing to anything, know that “the lawyer told me this” or “Sandy at Bank of America told me that” will not be the beginning of a successful argument defending against a debt at a later time.
Finally, it is best to have the input and guidance of an experienced attorney when trying to make sure that you are doing what is best for you under the circumstances. Sometimes, that may mean speaking to a couple of attorneys. For instance, my firm does not practice bankruptcy, but we can identify when it is best for some potential clients to forego hiring us to instead retain the services of a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Also, you should be certain your attorney is competent. A simple Google search can give you insight into an attorney’s reputation for ethics and professionalism, whether or not the attorney has been sanctioned or disbarred in the past, or whether or not the attorney holds himself or herself out in a professional light. Paying attention to these things can prevent further headache and harm. Nobody ever wants to spend good money after bad. If you have any questions regarding these types of debts, please call us at the DeWoskin Law Firm, (404) 987-0026.
See also Blog Post dated 05/23/2018 and 06/08/2018