No one likes getting a collection notice, especially if you pay all your bills on time. But many upstanding citizens are receiving them these days, simply because they tried to cancel something.
Everyone knows what a collection notice is: It's a threatening letter telling you to pay a past bill or face a big hit on your credit report. It's one thing if it's a real unpaid debt, but what if it's just a magazine you no longer want?
Don't Renew, Get Threatening Letter
Like a lot of magazine subscribers, I decided not to renew one recently. That was great, until this arrived: An invoice stating my account was "delinquent."
Melanie Gomez has received these too.
"I have seen these before, and it's always amazing how they can make you feel bad about not wanting something," Gomez said.
Worse, the letter stated I was "in arrears," making it sound like the sheriff was coming to get me, or at least ruin my credit. But if you read the letter carefully, you'll find that it's just the latest way magazine companies get you to renew.
Many subscribers don't want any hassle, so they pay $9 or $12 for another year.
What Can You Do?
If you receive a notice like this from a magazine you no longer want, your best bet is to:
-Call the magazine's 800-number and explain you are not renewing.
-Write "cancel" on the invoice and mail it back.
They legally can't send you to collections for not renewing.
Attorney Generals Settle
Time Inc. settled a complaint with 23 state Attorney Generals back in 2005 over letters like this, promising to dial back the threats.
Yet other magazines continue to do this, leading Frank Haas to propose a simpler solution.
"I'd rip it up and throw it away," Haas said. "I mean, it's crazy."
My advice? Before you send money to anyone, look carefully to see if it's a real collection notice, or just a renewal form written to look like a collection notice. That way you don't resign up for something you don't want, and you don't waste your money.