First, put a stop-payment on your most recent check.
I am assuming when you state you signed a contract that you are referring to an agreement with the first collection agency. I am assuming Mann Bracken was the second collection agency. The amount in your settlement agreement was a payment of $50 per month from approximately January 2004 to date. However, Mann Bracken appears to have ceased operations and the last cashed payment was for December 2009. Your balance seems to be correct based on the dollar amounts owed and paid.
Information on Collection Agencies and Statutes of Limitations
A collection agent is either a creditor or is a representative of the original creditor. Both collection agents and creditors are bound by federal and state laws concerning the collection of debt. For a basic guide, see the Bills.com resource Collections Agencies, Collections Laws and Your State's Statute of Limitations to understand the collections process.
Assignment of Debt
Most consumer debt contracts give the original and subsequent creditors the right to assign the debt. A collection agents buying a debt will do so for 5 to 50 cents on the dollar. The collection agent has the right to collect the entire balance due plus interest (state laws set the rules in this area).
A third party purchasing a collection account must abide by previous contracts between the parties. If a debtor creates a settlement agreement with a creditor, all subsequent assignees of the collection account take the account subject to its terms.
Therefore, if a debtor has a legal contract with a previous debt collection agency, then any current party attempting to collect the debt is bound by the terms and conditions of the contract. Assuming that a contract stipulated no interest to accumulate or other fees, then the current agent may ask for immediate payment in full plus additional fees, but the debtor has no obligation to agree to the new terms.
Collection agents can buy a fully documented account, which includes all of the invoices and records of the original creditor's collection efforts. Or, the collection agent can buy a bare account with little documentation. A fully documented account is worth a lot more than a bare account. More on bare and fully documented collection accounts in a moment.
How to Ask for a Debt Validation
If a collector demands payment of a debt an individual does not owe, or more than they owe, under federal law the individual can dispute the debt in writing. The formal terms are "debt verification" or "debt validation."
According to the FDCPA's Section 809(b), 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b), if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the 30-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.
You can find a sample debt validation letter at the Bills.com Debt self-help center.
If the debt collector has a bare account and the consumer seeks a debt validation, the collector has no means to validate the bare account debt. Without validation, the account is noncollectable if the debtor asks for the validation and does not receive it. That is why is is wise for a debtor to ask for a debt validation when a debt collector attempt to collect on an old debt -- the chances on the debt account still containing the full documentation diminishes with each passing day and with each debt collector who handles the file.
Debt Validation and a Mann Bracken Account
It is unclear from your message whether you sent the newest collection agent a debt validation letter. A debt validation letter will ensure that the new agency has a legitimate, legal right to collect the debt it claims you owe.
Debt validation is especially important in this case given the uncertain disposition of the collection accounts owned by Mann Bracken. It is imperative that former debtors of Mann Bracken validate the debt when the new collection agent makes its initial contact with the debtor.
I suggest that you continue to put aside the $50 you were paying. Quite often many of these collection agencies (law firms included) will negotiate a lump-sum settlement for 40 cents on the dollar. If you are able to, you may want to consider this if the new collection agent validates the debt.
You mentioned you are a Texas resident. The Attorney General of Texas offers a Web page devoted to debt collection.
Bills.com makes it easy for you to apply for traditional forms of debt relief.
I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.