Have you been contacted by a company known as Commonwealth Financial Systems?
If so, you may be past due or have an open obligation with a wide variety of companies and institutions.
Commonwealth Financial Systems is a small company operating in a very limited geographic area, but they collect for nearly every type of business.
The collection account may be a small amount owed to a retailer, or a very large balance owed to a healthcare provider.
Even if you don’t believe the debt they claim you owe is legitimate, you’ll still need to respond to the company.
That will be necessary whether they contact you directly about payment of the debt, or if the collection is showing on your credit report.
About Commonwealth Financial Systems
Commonwealth Financial Systems, Incorporated, is based in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, and has been in business since 2001.
The company’s service area is very limited, concentrated primarily in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Who Does Commonwealth Financial Systems Collect For?
They collect for a wide range of clients, including:
- debt purchasers
- financial companies
- retail concerns
- commercial operations
- government agencies
- medical clients
Is Commonwealth Financial Systems Legit?
They describe their services as being accounts receivable management, but this is a common description used by collection agencies.
Commonwealth Financial Systems has a Better Business Bureau rating of “B“, on a scale of A+ to F, meaning they are a legitimate business.
BBB has received nearly 500 complaints against the company in the past three years.
A cursory review of those complaints shows that:
- the majority of complaints have been answered
- and close to roughly one-third have been resolved in the consumer’s favor
Complaints include attempts to collect very old debts, failure to validate debts, and attempts to collect debts that have already been paid.
Before You Deal with Commonwealth Financial Systems
Before getting into any specific strategies, please keep the following four rules in mind.
They apply when dealing with any collection agency.
1. Don’t deal with Commonwealth Financial Systems by phone
Collection agencies love to contact consumers by phone, which is why you shouldn’t deal with them that way. Phone calls give the collection agent all the advantages.
After all, calling and harassing consumers for payment is basically what collection agents do.
If you attempt to deal with them by phone, the deck will be stacked against you, and success will be highly unlikely.
Fortunately, you can and should inform Commonwealth Financial Systems early in the process that you do not want to be contacted by phone.
By eliminating phone contact, you’ll also be taking away the harassment, as well as the barrage of phone calls.
But, more important, you’ll avoid the type of conversations where you’re likely to become intimidated and either:
- provide information you shouldn’t or
- make promises to send payments you can’t afford to cover
Always remember that phone calls to and from a collection agency are recorded.
That being the case, any information you provide or promises you make can be used as evidence against you if Commonwealth Financial Systems chooses to pursue a judgment against you in court.
Make sure your first phone conversation with Commonwealth Financial Systems is your last, and provide as little information as possible.
And, of course, the first phone conversation should be used to inform them that you don’t want to be contacted by phone.
2. All contact with Commonwealth Financial Systems should be in writing
You have a legal right to eliminate phone contact from any collection agency, but they still have a right to communicate with you.
That’s fine, so insist that all communication be handled in writing.
Written correspondence will avoid the direct phone contact that enables collection agents to intimidate and harass you.
It also means you’ll be better able to control the information you provide to the collection agency. In addition, you’ll be able to keep your letters concise.
You’ll ask questions, but provide no additional information to make the collection agency’s job easier.
But, perhaps the most important benefit from written correspondence is that it produces a paper trail of all exchanges with the agency.
You’ll be able to review that information before each round of communication.
There’s yet another reason for creating a file of written correspondence.
If Commonwealth Financial Systems files a lawsuit against you, your file filled with written correspondence may be your best defense.
If it reveals any breaches of federal law by the collection agency, you may be able to have the debt invalidated completely.
3. Never promise to make a payment
A major reason to eliminate phone conversations with any collection agency is to keep you from being intimidated into making promises to send payment.
Since those promises will be caught on tape, they can be used as evidence against you in a lawsuit if you fail to make the promised payment.
The collection agency can use the unfulfilled promise as a breach of contract, which will strengthen their legal case against you.
You should never make a promise to send payment unless a) you have the funds available to cover the payment, and 2) you fully intend to send it.
4. Familiarize yourself with your rights under federal law
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 Help in Dealing with Commonwealth Financial Systems
If you decide you don’t have the stomach for dealing with a collection agency, you always have the option to get professional help.
Start with a good credit repair company.
Not only can they resolve your debt with the collection agency, but they may also be able to minimize or even eliminate negative credit information.
If you believe Commonwealth will bring legal action against you, we recommend contacting Lexington Law they’re a law firm that specializes in credit law.
They can either represent you in legal action or even work to get the collection account removed from your credit reports completely.
Specific Strategies for Commonwealth Financial Systems
With the above rules fresh in your mind, let’s dive into the strategies you’ll need for removing the collection account from your credit report:
Demand Commonwealth Financial Systems Provide a Debt Validation Letter
A collection agency must be able to fully substantiate any debt claim they make against you.
In your first contact with Commonwealth Financial Systems, you must insist they provide you with a fully completed debt validation letter.
The letter should include all information relevant to the debt, including:
- date it went into collection
- specific dollar amount
- original creditor
- other information that establishes the claim as a legitimate debt
It should also have information that clearly connects the debt to you personally.
The completed debt validation letter will provide the information needed for you to determine if the debt is connected to an original creditor you had dealings with.
In many cases, the collection account is either a case of mistaken identity or a misapplied payment.
For example, the collection agency may be attempting to collect a debt from you because your name is similar to the original debtor.
Alternatively, it could be that you already paid in the past, but the payment was never properly credited.
A debt validation letter will give you an opportunity to make those determinations.
Request a Goodwill Deletion
Though it isn’t guaranteed to work, this could be your best strategy for having a collection account removed from your credit report.
If you’ve already paid the debt in full, you can request a goodwill deletion by Commonwealth Financial Systems by sending them a goodwill letter.
You’ll be asking them to delete the collection account as an act of goodwill.
Now, “goodwill” and “collection agency” are two terms that are not commonly used in the same sentence.
But, if your letter can convince the agency that the debt was a result of circumstances beyond your control, they may be sympathetic and remove the account from your credit reports.
Your letter should remind Commonwealth Financial Systems that the account is (or will be) paid in full.
But, more important, it must include a credible explanation that the account went into collection because of extenuating circumstances.
This can include a prolonged loss of income, a serious illness or injury, a disruption in your family life, or anything similar.
If you can provide written documentation supporting your claim, you’ll be more likely to get favorable results.
Offer a “Pay-for-Delete” Agreement
This is the most speculative strategy of all and is hardly guaranteed to work.
You’ll send Commonwealth Financial Systems a pay-for-delete letter.
You will offer to pay the debt in full in exchange for Commonwealth Financial Systems removing the collection account from your credit reports.
Collection agencies are in the business of collecting money, they may be interested in your proposal as a way to receive payment in full.
But even if they agree, they may not comply with the agreement, even if they confirm it in writing.
The problem is that pay-for-delete arrangements are a violation of the contract between the collection agencies and the credit bureaus, and are therefore not legally enforceable.
A collection agency can agree to the arrangement, collect your money, and then fail to remove the collection accounts.
And, if that’s how it plays out, there won’t be anything you can do about it.
Demand Deletion if Commonwealth Financial Systems Can’t Fully Validate the Debt
Now we recommend you dispute the debt if either they failed to supply the letter or it comes back incomplete.
If the collection agency fails to provide a fully completed debt validation letter, you’ll have grounds for having the debt dismissed.
The inability of a collection agency to validate a debt removes their ability to pursue collection efforts against you.
They should drop the claim if they can’t fully validate it, but that’s not always the outcome.
But, even if they don’t, you can open a dispute with the three credit bureaus, who will investigate your claim within 30 days.
If they fail to provide full validation of the debt, the credit bureaus will remove the collection account from your credit reports.
Commonwealth Financial Systems may continue to pursue collection actions against you.
If they do, you may need to hire an attorney to force the issue.
Settle the Debt for Less than the Full Amount Owed
This is a common strategy for dealing with collection agencies.
It will enable you to settle the debt for less than the full amount owed. Though it won’t remove the collection account from your credit reports.
You’ll send Commonwealth Financial Systems a letter proposing to settle the account for no more than half the full amount due.
If the collection agency counteroffers with a higher number, that will indicate their willingness to settle. From there, you’ll negotiate back and forth until you agree on a dollar amount.
But, don’t send money yet. Insist that Commonwealth Financial Systems provides you with a written acknowledgment of your agreement.
The agreement should include:
- their willingness to accept the reduced amount in full satisfaction of the entire debt
- as well as a promise to terminate collection efforts against you
- and report the account as paid to all three credit bureaus
If you send payment before receiving this letter, the collection agency may continue to pursue you for the full amount of the debt.
Absent a written agreement of the settlement, you’ll have no legal recourse against them.
It’s important to understand that a collection account will remain on your credit report for up to seven years.
It will lower your credit score the entire time. But, the situation becomes even more serious if the collection agency chooses to escalate the collection account to a judgment.
Commonwealth can garnish your wages until the debt is fully paid if this happens.
That’s why it’s so important not to ignore Commonwealth Financial Systems or any other collection agency.
Collection accounts don’t get better with time—in fact, they can often get a lot worse.