Consumer advice: Zombie debt conquered!

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A Post Falls reader fought the credit zombie monster and won!

Well, sort of.

Our reader found out that he had a collection on his credit report. Upon investigation, he discovered that he had been sent to collections by Dish Network for a charge of $575 for not returning equipment in 2012.

Remembering something he had read in this column about consumer debt having a statute of limitations in Idaho of four years, he did a little further investigating and discovered that indeed this debt fell into the category of not being collectible. Never mind that he said he had returned the equipment in question and was never properly credited for the transaction.

When our reader called the collection agency and spoke with a representative, he explained the statute of limitations, said he was contesting the debt and then demanded that the agency stop contacting him regarding this debt. The representative flatly stated there was no such statute and they would do everything they could to collect the debt, including ruining his credit if he didn’t pay up.

The outcome: Our reader was able to get this collection taken off his credit rating via a small claims court action but wasn’t able to collect the $171 of court costs or anything for his time to file and prepare the lawsuit. The collection agency didn’t bother to show up to court because they probably knew the outcome would be that the debt was uncollectible and the case would be dismissed.

The reader did say he felt better protecting his rights and was glad he ran across the information in this column. Know your rights so you can protect them.

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BANKING TEXT MESSAGE WARNING: Last week I received a text message from my bank informing me that my account was locked and then provided me with a link to click on. I wasn’t expecting this text and as far as I was aware had no issue with my account. Rather than just click on the link, I called my banker at Wells Fargo to find out if the text was legitimate.

Not surprisingly, my banker said that Wells Fargo (and I’m betting many other banks too) will never send text messages to customers about account issues.

I didn’t click on the link but according to warnings from the BBB, the link will take you to a form that appears to be on the bank’s website. The page will then ask you to “confirm” your identity by entering your personal information.

If you get one of these text messages, delete it. If you want to check your account, log into your account through the official bank website and check for notifications there. Remember, as a general rule, avoid clicking on any links in emails or text messages that you weren’t expecting.

The message here: Even if the text appears to be from a “trusted” source, it’s better to be safe and check it out through official channels rather than assume it’s legitimate.

•••

REFUND SCAM: I’ve received a few calls lately from readers saying they’ve gotten calls from a tech company, claiming they signed up for services last year and now that the company is going out of business, the customer is entitled to a refund — in some cases up to $400. All you have to do is provide your full name and credit card number for processing.

As enticing as this might sound, I think we can all see this one for just another scam. If you think about it, any company that’s really going out of business has a lot more issues to deal with than hiring someone to give money back to past customers. It just doesn’t make sense. And chances are if the company was flush with cash, it wouldn’t be going out of business.

Often, readers tell me they don’t even remember signing up for the service — another red flag that it’s all a scam and just a way for the crook to get your credit card information.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you’ve encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m a fulltime copywriter working with businesses on marketing, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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