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If you have an unpaid medical bill, you may receive calls from CMRE Financial Services, a collection agency that collects debts for medical services rendered by hospitals and other healthcare businesses. It makes money by coercing and often harassing you for payments on behalf of original creditors. It does this by reporting the account to the three major credit reporting bureaus and opening a collection account against you on your credit report.

Collection accounts can harm your credit score for nearly a decade, even if you pay off the debt. The only way to prevent extensive damage to your score is to remove the entry as soon as possible. This is a difficult process, but you can accomplish it through a series of steps.

What is CMRE Financial Services?

CMRE Financial Services is a medium-sized debt collection agency with its headquarters in Brea, California. It can show up on your credit report as CMRE Financial Services, Inc. or CMREFSI. CMRE Financial Services originated in California in 1996 and collects bad debts exclusively in the healthcare industry. This includes hospitals, ambulance services, dental practices, and doctor’s offices.

CMRE Financial Services is a legitimate debt collection agency and not a scam, but it’s not popular among its clients. It has over 1,000 filed complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and about 70 complaints in the last three years with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), despite its A+ rating. The most common complaint usually concerns repetitive calls to insurance companies and customers. Customers complain of harassment, failure to validate debts and inaccurate debt reporting.

How to remove CMRE Financial Services from your credit report

The essential steps you can take to remove CMRE Financial Services from your credit report are:

  • Know your rights
  • Request a goodwill deletion
  • Validate the debt
  • Negotiate a settlement

Know your rights

CMRE Financial Services and other debt collectors make money by coercing you to make payments. It often does this by employing questionable tactics, such as harassment and abuse. What it doesn’t want you to know is that federal legislation protects you from this sort of treatment, which includes harassing phone calls.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a piece of legislation that regulates the debt collection industry and prohibits unethical means of collection. This includes but is not limited to:

  • misrepresenting itself or information about your debt
  • using profane or abusive language
  • contacting people close to you regarding your debt
  • threatening legal action that’s unlawful

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the FDCPA so you can recognize if CMRE Financial Services violates it. It stands accused of a number of these violations, so it’s possible it may commit these when dealing with you. It's important that you request all communication in writing when you’re contacted for the first time. This is your right under the FDCPA, and the agency must comply with your request.

Communicating in writing will allow you to track your communication with the debt collector and ensure they treat you properly. When they call you, tell them that you would like to communicate exclusively through U.S. Mail. If they begin to argue with you, let them know that they’re in violation of the FDCPA and hang up.

Request a goodwill deletion

If you paid your debt already, don’t worry. There’s a chance you can delete the entry by requesting a goodwill deletion from CMRE Financial Services. This means it will remove the collection entry from your credit report out of fairness. Don’t expect to get a goodwill deletion if you haven’t paid the debt. Debt collectors will typically only grant these if you are in good standing.

To request a goodwill deletion, write a letter to them explaining why you were late on your payments and why you would like the entry to be removed. The agency may stop reporting the debt if you mention extenuating circumstances, such as a job loss. It’s important that your letter is polite and sincere. If you demand that the agency remove the entry, it’s less likely to grant your request.

Validate the debt

If you can’t secure a goodwill deletion, your next step is to request debt validation. It’s important that you do this quickly because you only have 30 days from your first contact with CMRE Financial Services to legally request this. The FDCPA allows you to ask for proof that the debt belongs to you. After all, you’re going to want some evidence if someone contacts you out of the blue demanding money.

A debt validation letter is a formal request for CMRE Financial Services to verify the information of the debt and its authority to collect it. This includes the name, date of debt acquisition, total amount and the original creditor. CMRE Financial Services should have this information, but information can get lost in the transition from the original creditor, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After you submit your request for debt validation, CMRE Financial Services should send you various documents that prove the debt belongs to you. Make sure you look through these carefully and make a note of any information that seems incorrect. If anything differs from the information you have, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus and have them remove the debt. You can avoid paying the debt entirely by doing this.

Negotiate a settlement

If the debt belongs to you, you’ll need to negotiate a settlement with CMRE Financial Services in the form of a pay-for-delete agreement. This means that CMRE Financial Services will stop reporting your debt to the three major credit bureaus in exchange for your payment. What it’s unlikely to tell you is that it’ll often accept less than the full balance. This is because it usually pays pennies on the dollar for debt and doesn’t need to claim the full amount to make its money back.

Begin by offering to pay half of the total debt and negotiate from there. Once you reach a compromise, ask CMRE Financial Services to send you the agreement in writing. You’ll need to review this document to ensure that the wording matches your agreement before making your first payment. Check your credit report after 30 days to see if CMRE Financial Services still appears as an entry. If it doesn’t, continue making payments as usual. If it does, reach out to the agency and remind it to uphold its end of the bargain.

CMRE Financial Services contact information

You can contact CMRE Financial Services at:

  • Address: 3075 E. Imperial Hwy, Suite 200, Brea, California 92821
  • Phone number: 800-783-9118
  • ​Website: cmrefsi.com

Dealing with CMRE Financial Services

The thought of going up against a debt collector such as CMRE Financial Services is daunting, but it will pay off in the long run. By taking care of negative items on your credit report, you’ll prevent major damage to your credit score in the future.

Some people find dealing with a debt collector directly uncomfortable, which is understandable. They’re tricky and can be stubborn when it comes to negotiating settlements. If you would rather hire a professional credit repair company, consider working with Lexington Law. They’re consummate professionals who know exactly how to handle debt collectors and clean up your credit report.

By getting help to improve your credit score, you can achieve your goals and regain financial freedom.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the number of BBB complaints against CMRE Financial Services.

Disclaimer: This story was originally published on August 22, 2020, on BetterCreditBlog.org. To find the most relevant information concerning collections or credit card inquiries, please visit: https://money.com/how-to-remove-collections-from-credit-report/ or https://money.com/get-items-removed-from-credit-report/