My husband and I both lost our jobs this summer and in order to meet our obligations attempted to settle all of our unsecured debt. I did the negotiations myself and settled 4 out of 6 accounts. Of the two left, one is still working with me. The other one is MBNA America represented by Wolpoff & Abramson (W&A) (Attorney's in the practice of debt collection). Instead of discussing a settlement, MBNA immediately sold by account to W&A, and W&A sued me right off the bat. I wasn't even a whole two months past due at that point!
W&A sued me through the National Arbitration Forum (NAF), which come to find out, is basically funded by claims sent to them by debt collecting attorneys--with W&A being the single largest supplier of claims! So, it was no surprise that, despite the fact that I sent proof of hardship to the NAF arbitrator AND to W&A, that W&A was awarded the whole amount of the debt, including interest and any fees incurred by them suing me! (It's an amount over $35,000!! The original debt was closer to $30K and was a bill consolidation loan taken out to cover repairs to a lemon of a house we had to sell and take a loss on--but that's another rip-off report some day!)
While this was all going on, I was still attempting to arrange a settlement with them as I had with my other creditors. The verbal agreement we came to reduced the total debt by $6,000+ and arranged for reasonable monthly payments. The W&A paralegal rep had to get that agreement approved by a lawyer and was supposed to send out a written copy for me to sign. Well, after 2 weeks of dragging their feet, what they faxed over in writing wasn't even CLOSE to what we had agreed upon over the phone. And they still pressured me to sign it! Their written version of the agreement put the debt HIGHER than the original debt and increased the monthly payments! Naturally, I didn't sign it.
But a month later, I received a phone call at 4 pm EST on the Friday after Christmas from another W&A rep saying that if I didn't send in a payment per the "agreement" (that I never signed!) before the end of the day (6 pm EST), that they would make the account a "charge off" on MONDAY and put a "permanent mark" on my credit report (yes, she said PERMANENT--as in, would never come off!), and they would sue me again and put a lien on my house. Then she continued to tell me that I would "never be able to sell my house or refinance". The amount she asked me to send in was EXACTLY the amount of my weekly unemployment check! (They know that amount because I sent my unemployment determination in as part of my proof of hardship). And then, she said, I would have to pay over double that the next month to "get caught up"!
I told her I'd see what I could do (which was nothing--I WAS BROKE!) and hung up. I immediately called an attorney, who said that there was no such thing as a permanent mark on your credit report and that even if they did get a court to allow them to put a lien on my house, that it could only be attached for 20 years and it would only get paid if there was any money left over from a sale. It would make refinancing difficult, though.
Since the overall tone of the W&A phone call was threatening, I filed a report against them with the Ohio Attorney General's office. W&A responded to the accusation by simply stating that I owe a debt and they are trying to collect it. But they didn't deny the threatening phone call. Interesting... This particular aspect of the situation is still on-going.
Needless to say, I didn't send them a dime on that day. The following week, nothing happened. The next week I got an automated phone call stating that I needed to call their offices. So I did and I sent them a little money (less than the amount they asked for). That is where I am now. I am currently looking for an attorney that can help me get a real settlement I can afford and get rid of W&A for good!
I've been researching W&A online and apparently they have been even more nasty than this to others! (Check out http://www.budhibbs.com/debtcollectorpages/wolpoff_abramson_bud.htm).
Beware if one of your creditors sells your debt to them to collect! Know your rights and talk to an attorney!! MBNA did it to me without even ATTEMPTING to negotiate a settlement. For that reason, I won't ever do any sort of business with them again!
BTW, MBNA is typically the company you find at ball parks, football fields, fairs, malls and special events giving away free crap when you apply for a VISA or MC with them. (At least in Ohio). Don't do it! They WILL screw you--even if you pay. They will change the terms of your agreement or increase your interest rate several times each year! And then, if you can't pay them for ANY reason--they will try to ruin your credit and life!! Take my word for it. My husband and I had credit scores over 700 and were in good standing with them (and all of our creditors), but when we got laid off, MBNA & Wolpoff & Abramson immediately tried to screw us!!