Have you spotted a collection account on your credit report from a firm known as A1 Collections?
If so, don’t ignore the notifications. A1 Collections is a verified collections agency, though it is shrouded in more than a bit of mystery.
That could make dealing with A1 Collections by yourself a more difficult task than attempting to work with other collection agencies.
But, if you do want to make the effort, we’ll provide you with the strategies to do it in this article.
Is A1 Collections Legit?
A-1 Collection Agency, LLC (aka A1 Collections) is based in Grand Junction, Colorado, and has been in business since 1992.
This is information provided by the Better Business Bureau since the company’s website provides virtually no information about the company.
In fact, the “website” is little more than a payment portal: “Welcome to Your Online Payment Site.”
We find this fact alone to be more than a bit disturbing.
The website does not exist to provide any information about the company and its operations, but merely to act as a tool to collect payments.
They don’t even provide general contact information, instead, giving you two contact options:
- one for payment by a checking account and
- the other for accounts not listed on the website
Your only action from their page is to log in to make a payment, presumably because you’ve already set up login credentials for payment purposes.
There are no other page options from the main website page.
Company Ratings and Complaints
Interestingly enough, the company has a Better Business Bureau rating of “A+”, the highest rating on a scale running from A+ to F.
However, the company is not BBB accredited.
Only four customer complaints had been filed against the company through the BBB in the past three years.
Since it references payment for a medical bill, we can assume A1 Collections represents healthcare providers as at least part of its business.
Very little additional information is available about the company.
How to Deal with A1 Collections
The fact that A1 Collections is shrouded in mystery should be a concern to consumers.
Most collection agencies will at least attempt to present the flowery image of a customer-friendly accounts receivable concern.
A1 Collections doesn’t even take that common approach.
That could make dealing with them more difficult than with most other collection companies.
Before attempting to deal with A1 Collections, please keep the following four rules in mind:
1. Don’t deal with A1 Collections by phone
It’s likely your first contact by A1 Collections will be by phone. If that’s already happened, there’s not much you can do to change the outcome of that call.
First, collection agencies routinely record phone conversations.
Every point of contact with the collection agency is designed to collect on a debt.
The collection agency will do one of two things:
- get you to commit to making a payment, or
- gather additional information that can be used as additional proof of your liability for the obligation
Because the call is recorded, any information you provide can be used against you in a lawsuit.
It should come as no surprise then, that collection agencies love to contact consumers by phone.
Not only does it offer them an opportunity to gather information and get you to commit to making payments, but, it’s an arena where they know they have the upper hand.
That’s because collection agents are skilled in getting information and promises from consumers.
Most consumers, on the other hand, don’t have the skills to prevent that outcome.
So, Rule Number 1 in dealing with collection agencies is to avoid contact by phone.
This conveniently brings us to Rule Number 2…
2. All contact with A1 Collections should be in writing
Under federal law, you have a right to demand contact be limited to written correspondence only.
Don’t be afraid to make this request.
Written communication removes all the advantages that collection agencies have with phone conversations.
For one, they won’t be able to harass you at all hours of the day, and even while you are at work.
Second, intimidation tactics work much better by phone than they do in writing.
Taking away the phone option will force the collection agency to be more civil.
But, most important, written correspondence will make it easier for you to avoid making promises to make payments.
We’ll get into why that such a problem in Rule Number 3 below.
3. Never promise to make a payment
Remember that we said collection agencies record phone calls?
Probably the biggest reason that is done is to get you to promise to make a payment.
If you don’t make the promised payment, the collection agency can use the recorded phone call of your promise as evidence against you in legal action.
It’s easier to avoid making such promises with written correspondence than it is in a phone conversation. So, be intentional about leaving any such promises—or even inferences—out of your letters.
And, never make a promise to pay on a phone call.
The only time you can promise to make a payment is if you are both willing and able to do so.
Failure to do so will lead to all kinds of bad outcomes.
4. Familiarize yourself with your rights
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides consumers with certain protections from collection agency abuses.
You can learn these protections by reading the Debt Collection FAQs provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Just knowing your rights under federal law may give you the upper hand when a collection agency starts getting ugly.
Get Professional Help to Deal with A1 Collections
If dealing directly with A1 Collections gets too difficult, you’ll need to get professional help.
The place to start is with a good credit repair company.
Credit repair companies know how to deal with collection agencies, and are likely to be more successful than you will be at settling the debt and having the collection removed from your credit report.
We strongly recommend you use a credit repair company if you have multiple collection accounts outstanding.
However, if A1 Collections threatens you with legal action, you may need to hire a credit attorney.
Lexington Law specializes in credit law and may keep the case from ever making it to court.
Specific Strategies for A1 Collections
Demand A1 Collections Provide Debt Validation
This is another right you have under federal law. You can demand A1 Collections provide you with what’s known as a debt validation letter.
The letter must provide complete information on the debt, including the name of the original creditor, the date the account went into collection, the amount of the debt, and information that clearly connects you to the obligation.
In effect, the debt validation letter is the collection agency’s proof of both the legitimacy of the debt and your obligation to pay it.
If they’re unable to provide a debt validation letter, or if it comes back incomplete, you’ll have a basis to challenge their claim and insist they remove any collection accounts from your credit reports.
There’s more to that effort, which we’ll cover shortly.
Request a Goodwill Deletion
This is a hit-or-miss strategy, but it may be worth trying anyway. You’ll send A1 Collections a goodwill letter.
In the letter, you’ll request that the agency delete the collection account from your credit reports as a goodwill gesture.
Naturally, it’s not as simple as all that. First, the collection account will need to have been fully paid at the time the goodwill deletion is requested.
Second, you’ll need to explain—convincingly—that the reason for the collection was due to circumstances beyond your control.
That might include a serious illness, a divorce, an extended time of unemployment, or anything similar.
You’ll strengthen your case considerably if you’re also able to provide documentation to support your claim.
Based on your letter—and the fact that the debt will already have been paid—the collection agency may delete the collection account.
But then again, they might not. That’s what makes dealing with collection agencies so difficult. They’re far from the most cooperative organizations in society.
Offer a “Pay-for-Delete” Agreement
As dealing with collection agencies go, this is something of an advanced strategy. And, you should know from the start that it’s not a legally binding arrangement.
You’ll submit a pay-for-delete letter in which you’ll request that A1 Collections deletes the collection account from your credit reports in exchange for full payment of the debt owed.
This could be potentially attractive to a collection agency, since it ensures they’ll receive full payment of the collection amount.
As such, they may agree to the arrangement, which should be in writing.
However, since pay-for-delete arrangements are not legally binding,—and are actually a violation of the creditor-credit bureau relationship—the agency may accept your payment but still fail to remove the collection accounts from your credit reports.
If that happens, you have no legal recourse. But, if you have the funds to pay the debt in full, and you want to get A1 Collections out of your life, pay-for-delete may be worth a try.
Demand Deletion If They Can’t Verify the Debt
This is the best outcome you can hope for.
If A1 Collections fails to send you a debt validation letter, or if the information is incomplete, you’ll have a legal right to demand they remove the collection account from your credit reports and stop further collection actions against you.
If A1 Collections is similarly unable to verify the information surrounding the collection, the credit bureaus will delete the collection directly.
But, even if the credit bureaus delete the collection, A1 Collections may not halt collection efforts against you.
This is another reason dealing with collection agencies is so difficult for consumers.
Settle the Debt
This is the most common way collection accounts are settled.
If A1 Collections does provide a fully complete debt validation letter, or if you already know the debt is legitimately yours, the best approach may be to settle the debt for less than the full amount owed.
That won’t remove the collection account from your credit reports, but it will eliminate the debt and keep A1 Collections from contacting you in the future.
How to Negotiate a Settlement
You begin by offering A1 Collections substantially less than the full amount of the debt they claim you owe.
Make them a written offer to pay something less than 50% of the amount owed in full satisfaction of the entire debt.
They’ll counter with a higher offer, and you go back and forth until you both agree on a settlement amount.
Once that amount is reached, insist A1 Collections send you a letter verifying the settlement amount, the fact that it will represent full satisfaction of the debt owed, and that they’ll report the paid status of the collection account to all three major credit bureaus.
Only once that letter has been received should you send payment. If you send payment without receiving the letter, A1 Collections will accept your money, and then pursue you for the full amount of the debt.
The moral of the story is that you never send money to a collection agency without first getting written confirmation of all agreements surrounding the payment.
Not only will the letter bind A1 Collections to accept the reduced payment amount as full satisfaction for the debt, but also, if they fail to report the paid status of the account to the three credit bureaus, you can use the letter as evidence to send to the credit bureaus.
They’ll correct the collection account to show it as paid even if A1 Collections doesn’t contact them to do it.