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Jewish World Review May 24, 2000 /19 Iyar, 5760

Bruce Williams

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Battling with collection agency


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- DEAR BRUCE: Where can I file a complaint? Four years ago I was billed for an item that I did not order nor receive. It was an error by the company. The item was charged by another family member. The company corrected its error and acknowledged that there was no debt after a lot of aggravation and phone calls.

Now, three years later, I received a letter from a collection agency demanding payment! I have tried to contact the company and the bank that they are using for their credit card, but they won't respond to my phone calls or e-mail.

In the meantime, the collection agency is hounding me, they won't listen to me, and they won't give me any information. I don't know where to turn next. -- L.R., via e-mail

DEAR L.R.: Yours is a relatively common problem. While the company acknowledged that the debt was improper, they often forget to clean up their files. Then other companies that buy "bad debts" come along and try to collect. These companies purchase outstanding accounts for pennies on the dollar.

If I were in your position, I would simply send one -- only one -- letter, certified to the collection agency, copying the company, with the details that you have outlined. In the event that they send further communications, photocopy your letter and send it off. There is nothing more that you can do until they take a positive action such as bringing you to court. You should include in your correspondence a paragraph stating that you will hold them civilly responsible for any damage to your otherwise stellar credit.

The next move is up to them. If you are obliged to go to court, hopefully you will have documentation of what has transpired and there may even be cause to move against them for damages.

DEAR BRUCE: I have been told that government agency bonds are a better investment then CDs. It was explained to me that when someone takes out a CD at the bank, the bank turns around and invests the money into government agency bonds. This is how they make their profit. -- B.B., via e-mail

DEAR B.B.: There are many ways that banks make money. In some cases, they will buy government instruments, which are sometimes called federal funds. Sometimes they make money by loaning money to customers. The bank turns a profit by paying less for money than they charge for it.

You could probably do better by a percentage point or more by buying the long-term bonds, which generally bounce around 6 percent.

DEAR BRUCE: I am newly married at 44. My husband owns a condo under his name as sole owner. He said that he had it written that way so that his ex-wife could not get it. He has had major heart surgery, and I am worried about what will happen to our house if something happens to him. Would I have no place to live? -- K.B., e-mail

DEAR K.B.: It seems to me that your husband could set this up in a number of ways. He could leave the condo in its entirety to you by will, and other things being equal, in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, it would seem a reasonable request on your part. Whether or not your name is added to the deed while he is living is for you and he to decide upon, but I don't think it seems unreasonable for him to agree to leave the condominium to you in the event of his demise.



Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).

Up

05/22/00: Are callable CDs a waste of time?
05/18/00: Building a college fund
05/16/00: Even death brings no relief
05/15/00: House is 'worth' what's offered
05/12/00: Borrow from Mom and Dad?
05/11/00: Your heirs, your choice
05/09/00: Mutual-fund investigations
05/05/00: Credit cards vs. debit cards
05/04/00: Lawyer are good for something
05/03/00: The binding nature of contracts
05/02/00: You know you are in trouble when ...
05/01/00: Can primary residence be rented out?
04/28/00: A full refund after five years?
04/25/00: Get a homeowner's title policy!
04/24/00: Beware of errors in your favor
04/18/00: $10,000 limit on gifts
04/17/00: Invest or repay student loans?
04/13/00: Beware of Internet auctions
04/11/00: Six percent is a pittance
04/10/00: Married couples should share windfall
04/07/00: How not to blow an inheritance
04/06/00: Get genetic screening for Tay-Sachs
04/05/00: Beating the look-back period
04/04/00: Providing for retirement
04/03/00: Readers disagree on time shares
03/30/00: The road back to good credit
03/29/00: Pre-tax dollars in IRA taxed later
03/27/00: Gambling on business ventures
03/22/00: Old cars as hobby, not investment
03/20/00: Tax on foreign gifts?
03/16/00: How to buy government bonds
03/13/00: Buying treasury instruments
03/09/00: Subcontractors must pay S.S.
03/08/00: Real-estate lawyers are essential
03/07/00: Don't expect compensation for ideas
03/06/00: Too rich for a Roth IRA?
03/01/00: Is time-sharing a scam?
02/29/00: Paying for nursing-home care
02/28/00: Rely on a real-estate lawyer
02/23/00: Keeping child's money safe from divorce
02/16/00: Just how important is a 401(k)?
02/14/00: Shaky partnership buying house
02/11/00: Protection by residential zoning
02/09/00: Benefiting from a reverse mortgage
02/07/00: Ensure your insurability
02/04/00: Absurd community zoning laws
02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

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