If you find Harris & Harris on your credit report, you probably owe a debt — Harris & Harris is a debt collection agency, meaning that they purchase unpaid debts from other lenders. You might also be receiving debt collection phone calls from them.
In this guide, we explain what Harris & Harris is, if the company is legitimate and how to remove this item from your credit report.
Harris & Harris, Ltd is a third-party debt collection agency located in Chicago, Illinois. The collection agency has been in business since 1968. As a debt collector, Harris & Harris purchases unpaid debts from the original creditors, such as healthcare providers, utility companies and government agencies, and attempts to collect on them.
Though healthcare expenses can go to a collection agency, medical debt doesn’t always appear on your credit report due to recent changes by the major credit bureaus. As of July 1, 2022, credit bureaus will not list paid medical debt on credit reports, and you get a year, instead of six months, to address your debt with insurance companies and medical providers before unpaid debt is listed on your credit report. However, if that medical debt is under $500, beginning in the first half of 2023, the three major credit reporting bureaus will not list it on your credit report.
The contact information for this company follows:
When you see Harris & Harris on your credit report or get a notice from them by mail or over the phone, you might wonder if Harris & Harris is a scam. However, Harris & Harris is a legitimate debt collection agency accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating. A BBB-accredited business refers to a determination by the BBB that a business has met certain accreditation standards, including making a good faith effort to find a solution to consumer complaints. Consumer complaints are not factored into the accreditation.
Because Harris & Harris is a debt collection agency, it must follow federal law for debt collection agencies, established under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). Debt collectors could violate your rights under the FDCPA, if they call or engage you in phone conversations repeatedly for the purpose of annoying, abusing, or harassing you. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot falsely represent themselves by claiming to be an attorney or make threats or use profane language.
If Harris & Harris obtains a court judgment against you, it may be able to garnish your wages until your debt is repaid. Some federal benefits directly deposited into your account, such a Social Security and VA benefits, may be federally protected from wage garnishment, and each state varies in how it handles garnishment. So be sure to seek outside counsel to help you navigate possible wage garnishment.
If Harris & Harris attempts to pursue legal action against you, consult with an attorney who specializes in collections for legal advice on how to proceed with the case or retain legal help to prevent it from escalating.
Depending on your situation, you may have some ways to remove Harris & Harris from your credit report. Just remember that Harris & Harris can pursue you for the debt you truly owe even after it has fallen off your credit report. Just because the negative information falls off your credit report doesn’t change the fact that you owe the debt and can be pursued to pay it.
Phone calls from a debt collector can be intimidating, but it’s important to know your rights and exercise them. Whether you believe the debt is legitimate or not, the first step to take when contacted by a collection service is to request debt validation. That way, you’ll know if the debt is something you do owe, or find out if it’s something assigned to you by mistake that can be removed.
You can send a debt validation letter to ask Harris & Harris to validate whether the debt is yours. Under the FDCPA, Harris & Harris will have to provide you with proof and can’t try to collect on the debt until they do. Just be sure to send the letter within 30 days of when you are first contacted, and when you receive a response, carefully review it and write down any errors you see.
Request copies of your credit reports to see which of the three bureaus list the debt. You can request free copies of your credit reports from each bureau every 12 months online through annualcreditreport.com. You can also request a copy from each credit reporting agency directly — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — for a small fee.
If you find that the debt is inaccurate — the amount is different or the name is incorrect — you can send a dispute letter to the Harris & Harris and the major credit bureaus to dispute the inaccurate information. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, provides templates for dispute letters you can use to contact the credit bureaus.
If the validation letter does prove that you owe the debt listed, you can offer to negotiate a settlement or installment plan to close the collection account. Still, closing a collection account through a negotiated settlement is better than leaving it unpaid and open, just waiting for it to drop off your credit record.
Depending on how old your debt is, you may want to speak to an attorney or credit counselor as well as seek out your state’s statute of limitations on debt. Although debt doesn’t go away until it is paid, each state has its own laws regarding how long you can be sued over debt. Because each state is different and how you act can affect the statute of limitations, an attorney who specializes in collections can help you navigate the process.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), only inaccuracies can be disputed and removed from your credit report. So the only options for removing accurate debt from your credit report is to negotiate a pay for delete or request a goodwill removal. While you may negotiate one of these successfully, bear in mind that debt collectors as data furnishers under the FDCPA are required to report debt accurately. Even if they agree to a pay for delete or goodwill deletion, they may not follow through with it.
You can try to negotiate a pay-for-delete agreement with Harris & Harris, asking that the negative entry be removed from your credit report in exchange for paying off some or all of the debt. If the company agrees to remove the entry, be sure to get that in writing, as Harris & Harris may not remove it even if you pay off the debt. Even if Harris & Harris agrees to remove your collection from your credit history, it cannot remove the negative information from the original delinquent account.
Another way to try and remove Harris & Harris from your credit score is with a goodwill letter. The letter explains why the debt occurred and provides proof that this was an extenuating circumstance to your otherwise consistent payment history. For example, you lost your job or had a medical emergency.
Like a pay for delete, a goodwill letter is not an official strategy and is not guaranteed to work. The Federal Trade Commission states that if negative information is accurate, it will simply take time to go away.
When dealing with debt collectors, you may report any problems with the debt collection agency to the FTC, the CFPB or your state attorney general.
Your rights as a consumer are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which outlines the following guidelines for debt collectors:
Having any collection account on your credit report can negatively impact your credit score. While paid medical debt will no longer be included on your credit report, unpaid medical collection accounts can appear on your credit report if left unpaid after one year, which can affect your credit score. Unpaid medical debt under $500, however, will not appear on your report.
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus through annualcreditreport.com. You can check your report for inaccuracies and stay on top of items reported that affect your credit score.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.
Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).
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