FCO Collections claims to be the “leading collector in multi-housing”. This means that they’re likely collecting for a previous landlord or apartment complex management company.
Be warned that ignoring a collection account is never a winning strategy. First, the collection agency will not simply go away because you ignore them.
Second, a nonresponse to a collection account could result in the account being escalated to a judgment.
You may not be aware that it’s even happening. But when it does, the company will have the legal right to garnish your wages until the debt is fully satisfied.
The collection balance could be a small one, say, less than $100. If so, it may be best simply to pay it off and move on.
Dealing with collection agencies is too stressful and time-consuming to dispute a small charge. But if the charge is several hundred or several thousand dollars, you’ll need to take action.
You can certainly do this on your own. In fact, we will provide you with plenty of strategies for doing so in this article.
But if you find FCO Collections is unresponsive, or you don’t feel you’re able to adequately deal with them, you’ll need to get professional help.
We’ll provide resources at the end of this article if you choose to go that route.
About FCO Collections
Officially known as Fair Collections & Outsourcings, Inc., FCO Collections is based in Beltsville, Maryland, and has been engaged in the collections business for over 35 years.
The company also has a call center located in the Philippines. This may be an indication you’ll be dealing with a non-US company representative.
That in itself can be frustrating. Clear communication is not always possible with representatives for whom English is only a second language.
What Debts Does FCO Collections Collect?
FCO Collections serves as a collection agent for multiunit housing, which generally means large apartment complexes.
They also list collecting for student accounts, student housing accounts, military housing accounts, senior and assisted living accounts, and commercial property collections.
Unfortunately, dealing with commercial landlords in a collection situation is more complicated than other collections.
Landlords and management companies are quick to place collections and even obtain judgments.
What’s more, the reasons for the alleged delinquencies are often subjective. For example, the management company could have assessed additional fees for unnecessary or imaginary repairs after the tenant moved out.
Or, they claimed the tenant didn’t pay an outstanding fee.
Is FCO Collections Legitimate?
FCO Collections is a legitimate debt collection agency that has a Better Business Bureau rating of “F”, dead last on a scale of A+ to F.
The BBB reports 103 complaints against the company within the last three years.
Virtually all have gone either unanswered or unresolved. So it looks a lot like the company doesn’t have much interest in its reputation.
Common complaints include being pursued for:
- non-validated debts
- poor customer service
- confusing information
- outright lack of response from company representatives
If you are overwhelmed by dealing with negative entries on your credit report,
we suggest you ask a professional credit repair company for help.
Before You Deal with FCO Collections
Before riding off into the darkness to slay the FCO Collections dragon, you’ll first need to be aware of some good general practices needed to deal with any collection agency.
1. Don’t deal with collection agencies by phone
This may not be much of a problem with FCO Collections based on the complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. It doesn’t seem as if the company has a history or reputation of reaching out to consumers at all.
But if they do, or if you decide to contact them by phone after learning of a collection account, tread very lightly.
Phone contact is a method that specifically favors collection agencies. They are trained in how to deal with consumers. And they don’t always follow the letter of federal law when doing so.
Many can get overly aggressive, threatening you or contacting you with repeated calls.
It’s not a level playing field on several fronts.
Collection agents typically try to get more information out of you. That information will be used to further connect you to the debt they claim you owe.
They may even try to get you to commit to sending money, which may or may not fix the problem.
While all of this is happening, your phone calls are being recorded. The information you provide, and any promises to send money, are being recorded for potential use in a lawsuit against you.
2. All contact with FCO Collections should be in writing
The better way to deal with all collection agencies is through written correspondence.
Not only does it eliminate harassing phone calls, but it also minimizes the ability of collection agents to use aggressive tactics.
More important, it gives you more control over the negotiation process.
Free from an aggressive personality on the phone, you can concentrate on constructive strategies for dealing with the agency.
That will also minimize the likelihood of providing additional information that can be used against you.
Equally important, written correspondence will give you a paper trail that may be your best defense in a lawsuit.
You should also know that you have a right under federal law to insist all communication with a collection agency takes place by written correspondence.
Phone calls from the agency should end immediately thereafter.
Send all letters by certified mail, return receipt requested. That will give you evidence the agency has received your letters.
3. Never promise to make a payment unless you’re willing and able to make it
Remember the part about phone calls being recorded? Collection agents will often try to get you to commit to sending money.
If you don’t send it, that can be used as evidence against you in a lawsuit. The same is true if you make such a promise in writing and fail to follow through.
Simply put, never promise to send money to a collection agency unless you have the funds available, and fully intend to send them.
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 Professional Help in Dealing with FCO Collections
Given how difficult it is for consumers to deal with collection agencies, and the fact that FCO Collections represents a notoriously aggressive clientele in multifamily housing, your interests may be better served by getting professional help.
Or, you may attempt to deal with them on your own for a while and hit a point where you’re making no progress, then call in professional help to close the gap.
Take advantage of the services provided by a good credit repair company.
They know how to work with collection agencies and can often have your credit profile improved in the process.
If FCO Collections threatens you with legal action, you’ll need to get attorney representation.
Lexington Law specializes in credit law, and can often keep a collection account from turning into a lawsuit and ultimately a judgment.
Specific Strategies for Dealing with FCO Collections
With the basic rules for dealing with all collection agencies fresh in your mind, let’s now move to the specific strategies you can use for dealing with FCO Collections.
1. Demand FCO Collections Provide a Debt Validation Letter
This is another requirement under federal law. A collection agency cannot simply assert you owe a debt—they must provide written validation proving their case.
Your first assignment in dealing with FCO Collections is to request a debt validation letter. The letter should include information about the debt and your own liability for it.
That will include the amount of the debt, the name of the original creditor, the date the debt went into collection, the full amount of the debt, what the debt was for, and information that clearly connects you to the obligation.
Not only is this a matter of federal law, but a debt validation letter may provide clues that can help you dispute the validity of the debt.
For example, many collection accounts are an attempt to collect a debt that has already been paid. Match the information in the letter against your own records.
If it turns out you paid the debt, you should be able to have the collection removed by providing evidence of the payment.
Another common reason for collections is mistaken identity. This is even more likely if you have a common name.
The collection agency may connect the debt to you because of the name similarity, but ignore the fact that the responsible party has a different middle initial, or lives at an address you never did.
If you can prove either discrepancy, the collection agency should drop the claim against you and remove the collection from your credit report.
2. Request a Goodwill Deletion
This is sort of like throwing yourself at the mercy of the collection agency. The debt is legit, and either you paid it off or you intend to pay the full balance now.
You may be able to request a goodwill deletion if the collection is the result of circumstances beyond your control.
Request the deletion by sending FCO Collections a goodwill letter. In it, you’ll request that the account be deleted from your credit report as an act of goodwill.
The letter should not only confirm the account has been paid—or includes full payment—but also include a convincing explanation of the extenuating circumstance.
That can be something like a divorce, the death of a loved one, a prolonged illness, or an extended time of unemployment.
If you can include documentation supporting your claim, that will help your case.
There’s no guarantee this will work. But if you have either paid the debt, or are willing to, and your primary concern is removing the account from your credit report, this is a strategy worth trying.
3. Offer a “Pay-for-Delete” Agreement
This strategy is a bit similar to a goodwill deletion, except it’s more of a negotiated process.
You’ll send the collection agency a pay-for-delete letter, offering to make full payment on the account in exchange for the collection agency removing the collection account from your credit reports.
If they agree—and they may, seeing it as an easy way to collect full payment—have them acknowledge their agreement in writing.
However, even if they agree to the pay-for-delete in writing, it still may not happen. These agreements are not legally enforceable, even if the collection agency agrees to the deal.
What’s more, it’s even a violation of the collection agency’s relationship with the credit bureaus. That is, once negative information is reported, it can’t be removed in exchange for payment.
The agency can report the account as paid, but it will continue to remain on your credit report for seven years from the date it first went delinquent.
4. Demand Deletion if FCO Collections Can’t Fully Validate the Debt
Earlier, we discussed using the debt validation letter to find clues to dispute your obligation to pay the debt.
But there may be another way to have the collection account dropped—if the collection agency fails to provide a fully completed debt validation letter, or they don’t send one at all.
The missing or incomplete debt validation letter can be used as a basis, under federal law, to demand dropping the collection account.
Collection agencies don’t always cooperate on that front, but you can use a missing or incomplete debt validation letter as evidence to dispute the account with the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
You can contact each, and open a dispute. When you do, the credit bureaus will be required to investigate your claim within 30 days.
If FCO Collections fails to provide debt validation, or if the information is incomplete, the credit bureaus will delete the collection account from your credit reports.
None of this means the collection agency will cooperate. They may continue to pursue you for the debt, in which case you’ll need to get professional help to fix the problem.
5. Settle the Debt for Less than the Full Amount Owed
This is another strategy you can use if you readily acknowledge that you owe a debt.
It won’t remove the collection account from your credit report, but it will enable you to settle the account for less than the full amount due.
Meanwhile, a settled or paid collection account will be better for your credit score than an unpaid one.
You should see your credit score increase by at least a few points after settling the debt.
You’ll need to put on your negotiator’s hat to make this work. You’ll send FCO Collections a letter proposing to settle the debt for less than the full amount.
We recommend an initial offer of not more than 50% of the full balance. If the collection agency is willing to negotiate, they’ll counteroffer with a figure closer to the full amount.
You then respond by increasing your original offer, and eventually, you’ll meet somewhere in the middle.
Once you do, request FCO Collections acknowledge the settlement in writing.
That acknowledgment must include that they will accept the reduced payment in full satisfaction of the entire debt, that they’ll terminate collection efforts against you, and they will report the account as satisfied with all three credit bureaus.
Send no money until you receive this letter. If you send money before the letter comes in, the collection agency may accept your reduced payment as a partial payment, and continue to pursue you for the balance of the debt.