Financial Advice

Is Afni Collections Really a Scam?

Question:

Dear Steve,

Do you know anything about Afni Collections? I recently looked into their legitimacy and was extremely confused. There are many websites that allege Afni is a scam.

I was contacted by Afni recently. I checked out their website, which shows they are located in California, but many of the websites claiming Afni is a scam state that they are located in Illinois. The BBB even showed they were located in Illinois. I looked up my account on the Afni website and it matched the details in the letter they sent me. What really alarms me is that they made it clear in both my letter and on my account details on their website that they will not accept a credit card, money order, or cashier’s check. It must be a personal check, debit card, or I can just give them my banking account information. They also advised me to make the check out to a different company and mail in, or I could call Afni and give them my banking account/debit card information. Oh, and they did put in my letter that they would not sue me due to the age of the debt.

The BBB website is full of complaints regarding Afni trying to collect debts many years after the statute of limitations has expired, and many years after the debt has already rolled off of their credit report. Many consumers also accused Afni of putting the debt back on their credit reports when they tried to collect the extremely old debt, which causes it to show as 2 since one is from Afni and the other is from the company they are trying to collect the money for. Most of those they claimed to be trying to collect debts for are companies that no longer exist, but that doesn’t stop the Alltel debt from showing back up on their credit report along with Afni. Even more consumers made complaints that Afni was trying to collect money from them for companies that the consumer never had an account or service with.

I’m concerned it really is a scam. I’m just wondering if you know anything about them. I’ve never had a collection agency say they wouldn’t sue me, even when it was after the statute of limitations. I’ve also never had one tell me they would accept a payment method that gave them my personal banking account numbers or debit card number, that drafts directly from my checking account. Most debt collectors I know are happy with any form of payment. It concerns me because if I did pay with a check or debit card, and if it was a scam, the bank only covers so much of that amount. They could take more than I agreed to pay and/or drain my bank account and there wouldn’t be much I could do. Besides, how many people actually use personal checks anymore? You’d think a real debt collection agency would know that.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,
Audrey

Answer:

Dear Audrey,

I don’t know what you mean by scam. It’s a word that has different meanings for different people.

If you are concerned by the legitimacy of the company, then you should contact your State Attorney General office and inquire if they are registered to do business in the state and licensed to collect debts where you live.

Additionally, even before you get into discussions about paying a debt, you should make sure the debt is valid. You can ask the collection company to validate the debt. Here are three articles and guides to help you through that process.

The issue about collecting a debt after the statute of limitations has expired is a subject the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to deal with. Many people get misled into paying these debts and it’s easy to see how they are confused by the process.

You see, just because a debt is out of the statute of limitations, doesn’t mean a debt collector can’t try to collect on it. It just means they can’t sue you over the debt. But if you make a promise to pay or acknowledge the validity of the debt it can start the statute of limitations clock all over again. That’s bad for consumers.

Without a doubt here I think you will gain clarity and knowledge by following my advice. And with that information you can then make a fully informed decision about how you want to proceed.

I did take a look at the reports filed with the CFPB about Afni and found these complaints from other consumers. As you will see, some people claim to have had similar experiences with Afni.

“AFNI is reporting an outstanding debt in the amount of {$110.00} to my credit reports. This alleged amount was previous sold by XXXX to another company ( a BBB complaint was successfully filed against XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX ), and was illegally sold again to AFNI. To date, I sent a letter to validate this date to AFNI, and there has been no correspondence received from them. At no time have I entered into any contractual arrangements with AFNI XXXX. Afni XXXX was aware of a dispute raised electronically through AFNI ‘s XXXX, XXXX, and XXXX inquires and collection tradeline. A XXXX tracked letter was sent to AFNI that this debt is illegal and invalid, and they are still attempting to collect on this illegal debt.”

“Debt is not mine is closest to describing the situation. There is NO debt. Alleged creditor is XXXX. Purchased phones from XXXX XXXX 2013. Not satisfied with service. Returned phones within 10 day satisfaction period. XXXX attempted to collect {$320.00} for termination. At first attempted to not allow portage of phone numbers to XXXX. After 3 1/2 hours at XXXX, vendor in store was finally successful in accomplishing this. When I requested for XXXX to provide a copy of the contract proving the debt was valid, they did not. After attempting for several months to collect by making harassing phone calls, XXXX turned the {$320.00} amount to an initial debt collector. This debt collector actually sent written communication about collection. I requested that they provide written documentation that the debt was valid ( any documents such as a contract ). Just like XXXX, they did not. This debt collector then apparently sold the alleged debt to another collector- AFNI. I did not receive any written communication from them about collection. I believe this may be in violation of the FCRA. They made several harassing phone calls. I requested that they provide written notification about attempted debt and to not contact me anymore until they have provided that. They never have. They also have not provided written documentation that the debt is valid. Since they never gave written notification as to what the debt was ( XXXX ), it has not even gotten to the step of my requesting that they provide written proof of the debt. Instead, they have added this item to my credit report and show it is in collection. As well, it is showing in the report that they have turned it over to attorneys for collection. I believe this may also be a violation of the FCRA since it is merely an intimidation ploy. Based upon complaints I have read about AFNI, they are unscrupulous in their methods and have many violations of the FCRA on their record. They added it to my credit report without providing any written documentation about the collection OR written documentation showing proof that the debt is valid. They add it to a credit report as leverage to collect the debt and did not act either ethically or legally. My credit score was XXXX prior to this item. I have had only XXXX missed credit card payment due to a delay in the mail on my report prior to this. It is now down to XXXX because of this item. I disputed it and Experian indicated that it is valid. I am not sure how AFNI was able to prove that it was valid since they have never communicated with me via any written form. I would like to have this item removed from my report entirely and also pursue legal action against AFNI due to violations of the FCRA. Please advise. Thank you.”

“A disputed account from AFNI came back verified from CRAs. I contacted AFNI on XXXX/XXXX/2015 via email making an FCRA 623 request for verification of account, including original contract, billing and any other documentation to substantiate this account and the billing of it. I received acknowledgement on XXXX/XXXX/2015 via email that my request was received and they would be in touch with me. I have heard nothing else to date from AFNI and they have failed to delete the negative info/account from my CRA as required per FCRA 623. Since the company has failed to reply to my FCRA 623 request I have no choice but to assume they are unable to verify this account and thereby they need to remove the negative information from my FCRA as they are perpetuating adverse action based on this reporting.”

Based on the complaints of others and my concerns over the validity of the debt, you should really take the time to look into this debt further.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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