Life Just Keeps Sucking

I told myself I wasn’t going to write this post, especially after all the whining I did last week. But I started this blog to talk about ALL my financial stuff, good and bad, so I’m putting this out there. Please be gentle.

The Situation

At the beginning of June, I posted about a forgotten medical bill that had gone into collections. Basically, between my divorce, moving, remodeling, etc., I forgot about some money I owed to a doctor’s office. The charges were from 2009, and I found out that the bill was sent to a collection agency. I discovered this in June, two years after the fact, when I pulled my credit report. The collection agency never contacted me via phone or mail, which I assumed was because they didn’t have my new information.

At the time, I had the money in savings to pay the $800 I owed, so I asked for advice from readers. Most of the comments got eaten when I moved the site to WordPress, but the general consensus was to wait. Or to call the collection agency and offer to settle. Even my dad told me to wait since I hadn’t heard anything from the collection agency yet.

I looked up the agency online, got a phone number, and called first thing on a Monday morning. And got a very angry lady who was clearly not a collection agency. I checked the number, and it was the same one I’d dialed. I searched some more and couldn’t find any other number for this place. It really pissed me off.

Then, like an idiot, I promptly forgot all about it.

It Gets Serious

Last Friday, my doorbell rang. I was expecting a friend, so I opened the door with a big smile on my face. Imagine my surprise when I saw a sheriff’s deputy standing on my porch! He was serving me with papers from the collection agency. They are suing me for the $800 I owe (plus some lovely legal fees). I have 20 days to respond, otherwise they’ll be granted a default judgment against me.

First, let me tell you how humiliating it is to have a cop show up at your door. This has never happened to me before. And I know the cop, which made it even more embarrassing. He looked very apologetic and promised he didn’t look at any of the paperwork, which I know is a total lie. Also, Jayden had a friend over to spend the night. This friend had never been to our house before. I’m sure he went home and told his parents ALL about the exciting time he had at my house.

Obviously the collection agency had my new address and phone number, since both were listed on the summons. So I’m trying to figure out why they never sent me a letter or called me. I wanted to pay this debt; I definitely would have avoided it in the past, but that’s not the way I do things now.

My Options

Unfortunately, my options are very limited. As you all know, my emergency fund is pretty much depleted thanks to my crappy paychecks. I don’t have the money to pay for this right now.

I can send a letter asking the collection agency to validate the debt. This would give me about 30 days to stall and try to sell a kidney or something. However, it would not change the fact that I owe the money. I would feel bad wasting the agency’s time when I know where the debt came from and that it’s valid.

I can ignore the summons and let them have the default judgment. This would stay on my credit report for 7 years. However, it would allow me to make payments. Or they would just garnish my wages, which is hilarious since it would take about 3 years at 25% of my current paychecks.

I can drive to the address listed for the collection agency and try to talk to them. Since I still can’t find a phone number that works, I would have to drive about 75 miles to get any answers. But I’m starting to think it may be worth it. I’d love to know how they can sue me for a debt when they never bothered to communicate with me. FOR TWO YEARS.

I can change my name and move to Canada. This is an option I’ve been considering more and more lately. Obviously it’s not realistic, but it sounds nice when I think about everything going wrong in my life right now.

This Sucks, Guys

I don’t know why everything in the universe seems to want to crap on my head lately. I try not to waste time feeling sorry for myself, but sometimes it’s just hard not to.

My income is pathetic. My emergency fund will be gone when I get paid on Saturday, because I’ll need the little bit I have left to pay my bills. As of yesterday, Kentucky Medicaid has been outsourced to 3 managed care companies, which affects my job in ways I can’t even discern yet. I do know it’s bad. I’m fighting with Nielsen over a stupid grocery scanner. And now this. I won’t even go into the stuff that sucks in my personal life - there’s enough just focusing on finances.

I have worked really hard for the past year to make better choices and stop throwing away money. For awhile I was doing great and really felt like I had a success story to share with all of you. At the moment, I feel like I have no right to share anything because I am still, despite my best efforts, a financial disaster.

I don’t know what to do right now. Moping never solved a single problem I had, yet that’s the only thing I can find to do. I apologize for being so depressing - hopefully a miracle will occur and I’ll be back to normal soon.


Life Just Keeps Sucking56 Comments

  1. Is there also no phone number listed on the information the cop brought over?! What the HECK! I would think a collection agency would have to have contact information.  I am sure there are also laws about how they're supposed to contact you before it gets to the "suing" stage. Maybe you could research it from that angle…

    • Nope, no phone number on the summons either. I would they think they would HAVE to provide a number where I could reach them. All I have is an address. I doubt the lack of contact will do me any good, but I may write them a letter mentioning that fact. I'll do some searching today. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Or you just answer the complaint show up in court and tell them exactly what you wrote here. The judge will hear your case and then you can work out an agreement. They may even work out an agreement before you walk in to court. Whatever you do, do not ignore it, Which I know you will not. 

    • That's the funny thing - there is no court date on the summons. Basically, I either respond or they get the judgment. Which I find to be very strange, though I don't have experience with things like this. I'm definitely going to respond; just haven't decided how.

      • Aw, this situation is really crappy.  I'm sorry to hear this is happening to you, but thank you for the post and sharing with us.  Lots of people will benefit from reading this.

        I agree with Smart Money Chicks and that you should address the complaint with what you wrote here.  I think whatever you do, you should do it in writing.  Document, Document, Document.  

        Best of luck with this.

        • I would also send the letter via USPS with delivery confirmation.  It will look better in court if you show that you have at least attempt to contact them.  As far as them saying they didn't know where your ….check the credit reporting agencies and see when they started reporting your current address.  Then how can the collection agency try and say they didn't know how to contact you.  

  3. You're right, this really sucks. I don't have any practical answers beyond the options you have listed here. Whatever you do, don't stop blogging. You do have an amazing story to share and the way you present it here is honest and real.

    • I agree. Don't give up although that is easier said than done. Keep blogging. It might be the only thing that keeps you sane and feeling supported right now. 

  4. That does suck. I wish I had some great advice right now, but I just don't. Maybe you can land some sweet advertising deals on your blog??

  5. Yep, life can suck sometimes even when you're trying to do the right thing.  These things can come up and bite you in the butt when you ignore or forget them.  Try everything you can to find a phone number to go with that address (Google anyone?) and contact them.

    Whether you get a judgement against you or not you have to find a way to get it paid, and with your current paycheck situation, you obviously don't have the means to do so.  The best way to take care of this is to increase your income.  You can sell stuff you don't need on Ebay or in a yard sale.  Or find a part time job and put all that money toward the debt and build up a new emergency fund.  I know that's not an appealing solution because you already have a job you work hard at, but it would only be temporary.  Besides, if you're having to dip into emergency funds to live, you're not making enough money and need extra income anyway.

    I teach people in my Celebrating Financial Freedom course that the idea of working more may not be fun, but I think you'll find that it's not so bad because you will be attacking the situation that's bringing you so much distress at the moment.  You'll be proactive instead of reactive, and when you're proactive you have more control and more peace of mind because you are working to resolve the situation.   When it's all over you'll have a sense of pride and accomplishment as well as a painful reminder not to revisit that situation again.  You WILL be better once you have been proactive and faced your struggle head on.  

    Thanks for being so honest and open.  Your struggle will help others in the long run.

    So get out there and Git 'er Done.  You can do it!!!

    And remember… "When you help me with money, you help the world prosper"- J.M. DuMont

    • I didn't respond to this earlier because I didn't know what to say that doesn't sound bitchy. So I apologize in advance because I still haven't figured it out.

      Do you honestly think I haven't been searching for jobs? Like 24/7? That's all I do. But I live in a rural community where the only industries are a 50-bed hospital and a few schools. Everyone commutes to other counties for work. I search for jobs in a 75-mile radius every single day. There is NOTHING. I can't even get a job at McDonald's because I graduated with the manager's daughter, so she knows I have a master's degree and won't stay long-term. I know this because I tried. 

      I have a son. A son whose grades fell drastically last spring when I was working two jobs. I was gone from home 60 hours a week minimum. And the money I made wasn't enough to justify the destruction it caused. I find it very insulting for you to point out that I'm not making enough money like I'm not smart enough to know that. Like I haven't mentioned it 500 times in my last few posts.

      Also, if you had read my post, you would notice that I googled the phone number and it was not the correct number. I also called 411, and they listed the same number.

      Anyway, I try to appreciate your comments, which are nothing but a thinly-veiled advertisement for your course, but I'm not in a mood for this shit today. Don't patronize me to make yourself feel like some kind of expert. 

  6. OBV- Send a letter asking the collection agency to validate the debt and prolong the outcome of this debt. Have you been looking for a new job? I know that can be tough. 

  7. Okay first off does the paper say they will get a default judgement? I've never heard of that. Normally they can TRY to sue you and put a levy on your wages, but they don't always win.

    And another thing, who cares if they win, I mean they can't make you produce money out of thin air. You have to take care of yourself and your child, they can't take the food off your table. Your probably close to judgement proof.

    Credit collections are so lame, and they just use scare tactics. A police officer….REALLY?! HA…rude

    • Yes, the paper says they will be granted judgment by default if I fail to respond. I think they're trying to save the court system time and money. I care about them winning because I can't afford any more black marks on my credit report. At some point I need to take over my mortgage from my parents, and I can't do that if I have a judgment and bankruptcy listed at the same time.

      • Man, that's so stupid. I hope there are some other measures you can take to defend yourself. I mean they didn't want the money so badly to actually track you down, and they didn't contact you for 2 years. 

        I didn't think about them winning the judgement as putting a black mark on your credit. That sucks.

  8. I'd try: send a certified letter to the agency requesting proof (that will give you time at least) and I'd also put in there that you have tried calling the number that you had and found it was listed wrong.  Also-does this company have a bad rep?  The one thing I've found is that sometimes you can call the orignal billing company and request proof-but mention the fact that the collection agency hasn't tried contacting you until now and have also failed to give you a proper phone number. Sometimes the orignal company will go out of there way to get your credit history report fixed.

  9. Ughhh so sorry to hear about this Andrea!  I've been reading your blog and this is the first time I'm commenting.  You've been trying to be good and do well, the situation will eventually turn around to your favour.  Have faith and patience, and in the meantime document everything so you have evidence to protect yourself!  When you have hit rock bottom, the only way to go is UP.

  10. The Agency probably bought the loan for 10 - 20% on the dollar.

    Call them with a $250.00 offer, the best you can do.

    They will probably take it, get it off their books, and make money.

  11. I've recently found your blog and have lately spent a lot of time reading it.  I have found it inspiring and also very useful.  Seeing this post, I thought I should say something.

    I reread your previous post about this.  If I understand correctly, you have had no contact with the collection agency regarding this debt.  I am not counting the summons.  If this is true, then at this point you do not even know if you actually owe $800.00.  I am not sure if you even know exactly what the collection is for.  Yes, I remember you writing that you think it was the doctor stuff, but have you confirmed that?  $800.00 might be the amount that popped up on your credit report, and the amount listed in the summons, but if you never received a detailed accounting of the debt, then you really don't know what kind of fees and penalties have been added.  You don't even know if the principal amount that was sent to collection is correct!

    I am not a lawyer, nor do I have any familiarity of the law in your state.  But in your place I would start by responding to the complaint.  Since the collection agency has filed a lawsuit, I don't think your contacting them before responding will help you.  At this point, you don't have much leverage to negotiate.  In your response, I would not admit to owing the money.  I would simply state that the collection agency never made contact with you, and that they have never provided you evidence of what this collection is for, or if the amount it correct, or if the collection is even valid in the first place.  State that you cannot even acknowledge the debt until they send you an accounting.

    There are a couple of things in the back of my mind while writing this.  The first is that a lot of collection agencies play fast and loose with the law.  Many times, a collection agency will just file a lawsuit, gambling that they will be able to simply get a default judgement because many debtors take the "ignore the problem and it will go away" approach.  When this happens they win big because they are able to pad the debt with all kinds of extra charges.  Collection agencies can get away with all kinds of hanky panky in a default judgement, like getting judgments for debts where the statute of limitations have expired.  It is possible (I think likely, judging by what you have written) that they have cut corners on legal procedure with your debt.  If this collection agency has cut too many corners, it could annoy the judge and you might be able to get the lawsuit thrown out entirely.

    I am wondering if there are free legal resources online or in your area that can give you general information about the statute of limitations on the debt and exactly what your rights are, and what to reasonably expect as the lawsuit progresses.  The more you are able to find out about this, the more "meat" you can add to your response.

    Meanwhile, I think that the fact that you are required to respond in writing might help you.  Because as other people here have told you, you are an awesome writer.  So in your response, you can detail that you are unsure about the validity of the debt, and that as someone currently struggling with your financial situation you have to be very cautious about these things.  I would also explain that as soon as you found out about this situation you have attempted to contact the collection agency to discuss the matter, but that they have not provided you a contact number, and you have been unable to find one.  And then explain that since their office is 75 miles away and you are a single mother that works full time, and that the response of 20 days means you don't think you can resolve this by mail before the response is due.  Basically spin it so that it sounds like the big bad collection agency has place an egregious (wow, I spelled that right on the first try!) burden on you, the victim.

    I know this is long, but I thought it might help.  As far as what happens after the response, I don't know.  But by responding, you might be able to get any erroneous charges/fees removed.  You might get the amount of the debt reduced as some kind of settlement option.  And there is the possibility that you might get the suit thrown out, or dismissed entirely.  But the most important thing is that all of this buys you time.  And I think that is what you need most right now.  I am not an advocate (generally) of kicking the can down the road, but in your case down the road might give you more wiggle room.

    I will be checking your blog to see what happens.

    • Wow, thanks for your comment! I feel like I should give you a byline because I think you just wrote a guest post! :)

      I have a very legal-sounding letter ready to go; just waiting for an attorney (friend from high school) to read over it before I send it certified. I hate to do it, but I don't have any other choice. The statute of limitations in Kentucky is 14 years, so I'm nowhere close to that kind of protection. I'll just have to deal with it the best I can and cross my fingers.

      Thanks again for your insight. I really appreciate the time you took to offer suggestions.

  12. Andrea - I'm emailing you now.. I work at a tax law firm and handle these situations all the time.  Levys, liens, summons, garnishing wages, etc. on a daily basis and how to deal with them.  I'm overly excited to help give some advice!!  Hang in there as the situation sucks right now

  13. Ok first off, be proud of the fact that you haven't hidden the paperwor under your bed and pretended like it doesn't exist (which might have been your course of action a few years ago). Yay progress! 
    This is a really frustrating situation that seems to be coming at the worst possible time for you.  If it is possible to stall the process to give yourself some time by asking them to validate the debt, then it might be an advisable situation even if it doesn't seem like the right thing to do.
    I am not sure where you are located in the US, but my advise is to try and find a non-profit Credit Counselling Society or something similar.  Up here in the snowy north, they are able to work with collections agencies on your behalf and help negotiate payments.  It seems strange that the collections agency does not have a phone number - could you try calling the Doctor's Office that you owed money to and asking if they know the number?

    • Honestly, I'm kind of scared to call the doctor's office! Usually once they've referred your account to collections, they won't talk to you about your bill. I also feel intensely guilty because I let this go when I moved… I really like that doctor and I want him to get his money, no matter how much it will pain me to come up with it.

  14. ((((HUGS)))) sorry to hear about everything that is going on financially for you right now. I would perhaps try and contact them to see if anything can be solved outside of court? If nothing can be done or they are not willing to negotiate you can always let the judge know that you did try to make contact with them to avail. I hope everything looks up from here like the saying goes it only gets worse before it gets better.

  15. Oh Andrea! Keep our head up I know that it will get better. Things come in 3's and once the 3rd thing has showed up everything gets better. I wish I could be of help, had you been from Ontario I would be all over this, but I don't know anything about USA laws or state laws. Good Luck with it!

  16. I would write to the collection agency via certified mail with return receipt, and write to the FTC and explain the situation, again certified mail, return receipt. On your letter to the collection agency cc the FTC (include all correspondence you have received from the collection agency, including the summons. keep copies of everything.. Take a deep breath and stand back. It's not the end of the world. I know it seems like it is, but you're panicking and not thinking rationally. These letters will buy you time and you can get things into perspective. Getting the FTC involved would be a good thing, you may find that there are many complaints against this particular company Having no money does suck, but you can always make more. It was an oversight, they're not going to throw you in jail or anything like that. Just take one step at a time. Good Luck!

  17. I'm sorry that things don't seem to be going in the right direction for you right now.  I don't have any other practical advice in addition to what the comments already say.  Although I can say that I, for one, definitely do not want to take a crap on your head.  I'm sure the other commenters would agree.  I know that you'll make your way through this, and when you write about how you did it, it will be great advice for the next person in your shoes.

    • I appreciate your willingness to avoid crapping on my head! I really appreciate that.

      I keep telling myself that this experience will help someone…. But then I wonder why I can't help someone without suffering through a bunch of BS first!

  18. Don't sweat the debt in your current situation.  Send your letter and make them justify your debt.  Check out  ; for more assistance.  Your primary concern is shelter, food and transportation.  If that debt waited this long it can wait later.  Once you have re-established yourself, I would offer them 25% of the original amount.  Just the principle and no fees.  You may have to contact them once a week until they accept.  Then only agree to settle once you get it in writing.  Once you have the settlement letter in hand, send them a certified check and never let them have access to your financial accounts.   Keep that letter and your copy of the certified check for the rest of your life.  Just remember your priorities in life. They come in at the bottom.  Things will get better, they always do!  Chin up!!

  19. If you respond to the summons, I bet that buys you more time — hearings
    or trial dates may be weeks down the road.  However, you might weigh your options beforehand also.  Go to your state's website for the courts (is it small claims court they're taking you to?).  While the websites are usually written for those who are filing a claim, it may give you information on the process and the different steps and fees that may follow if you ask for a hearing or trial date. It may be a little scary to see it outlining the info for the "other side," so prepare yourself emotionally first — but for me, knowing the processes and timelines or deadlines ahead of time is the smallest of comfort if you feel a little more informed about what is going to happen or could happen. 

    Also, if you attempt to contact the collection agency by mail and as you contact different agencies like the FTC or the Attorney General's office to see if there are other complaints against this company, make sure you keep a detailed log of dates/times you called, who you spoke to, questions you asked and answers received, etc.  You never know when those details will come in handy!

  20. I think everyone has offered a ton of good advice and I agree with a lot of it.

    What I find fishy though; is the lack of phone number and only the mailing address. They are making it hard for you to reach them; probably on purpose. 

    I would send a letter (like you did/are/will) and only a letter. I would request their phone number for further efforts to resolve this matter. A company that does not bother to leave you a phone number or a break down of what the bill is for just screams "we're suing cause..let's be honest, we can". And that isn't right. And I mean really..if they aren't willing to contact you OR leave you a phone number, then how badly do they want your money?

    Most companies who send to collections; have an annoying little person calling constantly. Yet no one has called you? No one has sent you mail? Nothing adds up on their end. 

    You're braver then I; I can tell you every which way from Friday how I would handle it, but at the end of the day?

    I'd go cry to my husband to fix it cause I'm a big ole wimp who hates people mad at me. 

    Be sure to update us! And good luck! 

    • Thanks so much for your comments. I totally agree - I've had stuff go to collections before, and my phone blew up 24/7. This one is weird because I never got a single phone call. I don't know; maybe this method is really successful for them. I'm fighting, though! I don't have anyone to cry to but you guys, so I appreciate the support everyone has given me. I just hope it works out.

  21. Another way to attempt to contact the agency would be through their lawyer.  There should be a complaint attached to the summons.  Somewhere on the complaint you should be able to find the name of the attorney for the plaintiff (the collection agency) and, at least in my state, the attorney's bar number will be listed next to their name (this is a handy piece of identifying information if the attorney has a common name).  You can use this information to look up the attorney (if Google doesn't work out, contact the state bar… the CA state bar, for example, lists every attorneys contact information on its website).

    Your lawyer friend should be able to help you pursue this line of communication if you are interested.

    Good luck!

    • That's the funny thing - the collection agency is SUPPOSEDLY an attorney's office. Yet the guy isn't listed under the bar association, has no number next to his name, and Google returns nothing but the same empty listing with the wrong phone number. If this wasn't on my credit report, I would think it was fake.

      • The more details that come out in the comments, the smellier this gets. I am thinking that this is one of "those" collection agencies, that flagrantly ignore the law and get away with it (profit) because of the apathy of the debtors (victims?). The suggestions to look up complaints on them are good ones. I strongly believe that if you can find the right place to look, there will be a lot of dirt. And for you dirt might = leverage.

        One more thing and I'll shut up. As someone else pointed out, this collection agency bought the debt for pennies on the dollar. What they get from you they keep. The doctor has had to write it off. I understand that you feel a strong sense of obligation about it and that paying it is the right thing to do, but the moment the collection agency took it over it became a business issue rather than a moral one. I urge you to think of it as such, because as a single mom with your set of circumstances, and I severe financial straits, it is truly in your best interests to use any legal means available to you to get this debt thrown out or reduced as much as possible. As to the morality, once you get back on your feet (and someone as determined as you will - it's a matter of time) you can always pay the doctor directly when you are able to. But the collection agency? Business is business.

        Please keep us posted. You have a fan club that is very interested in how this works out

  22. Hey - this situation is crappy and don't feel bad for complaining about it.  Actually I think as crappy as this situation is- this is what makes me think of you as an authentic personal finance blogger.  I enjoy reading the other blogs but I do find they're all at a state of perfection (financially) and its nice to see that despite the behaviour modifications you've made financial woes / problems  issues can come back into your life.  I'm not trying to say I'm happy you're in this situation- but I think what makes your blog believable and palatable for me is that yes you understand the financial how tos but sometimes shit happens… and its ok to slip back into 'your past'  and I thank you for being authentic enough to share this.  I'm in debt and am looking to reduce it, and its nice to read about a blogger who has succeeded and has steered away from the course, only to get back on track (which I totally know you will in due time- you got it in ya!) and maybe even surpass her previous expectations.   Keep your head up… 

    • Thanks so much for this comment. It really makes my day. I always worry about people thinking I'm an idiot because my finances AREN'T picture perfect. But at the same time, I guess money screwups are just my thing. If real people get something out of reading, that's good enough for me. Thanks again!

      • I can't find additional updates. Did this work out? I was thinking instead of the drive you might know someone in the other town who could get you the good phone number. Being from Western kansas it was pretty common to know a speckling of folks across the entire state.

  23. Do you have any relatives?  This happened to me about 8 years ago and I ran to Mom, who fronted me the money to get the thing paid.  In fact, I had to do that twice, the other time being a few years before that.  I paid Mom back both times, and promptly (I mean, within her terms, even though it took me a number months.)

    Prior to that, about 20 years ago when I was very young I had a judgment for $800 for something I really didn't agree to pay; I actually went to court and got steamrolled (because it was a lawyer who made up the phoney bill) and I just never paid it.  He (the lawyer who charged me the $800 over and above what I agreed in writing to pay him, which I paid him, of course) had the judgment renewed at least once, but during this time, I had no credit, didn't understand credit, and hardly cared that a judgment was listed for me.  All I cared about was that I had no assets that were subject to being seized.  It still appears in the judiciary if I really dig for it but it's  been off my credit report for a long time now without a trace.  I don't recommend this second option unless you plan to have no credit record for a long time.  I recommend option A which is to borrow from a relative if you can and get it paid off.

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