Debt Collections, Collection Agencies and Fair Debt Collection Practices
If a debt collector claims you owe a debt, you are subject to all of their collection tools. They may call you at work, at home, and on your cell phone, they will send you demands to pay, contact your neighbors, your boss and co-workers and even show up to your home or work. The industry motto for dirty debt collectors is "persistence breaks resistance". This means dirty debt collectors use every available way to wear you down and create enough stress so that you do whatever they ask of you so you can get them out of your life.
I don't owe the debt, but debt collectors keep calling.
Are you being collected on for a debt that you don't owe? The first step is to do a little investigation to determine if you can learn the reason why you are being collected upon.
Get a free copy of your credit report
Go to annualcreditreport (dot) com but be careful to avoid the many spoof sites that want your credit card. The site allows you one free credit report each year. Download your copy and review it carefully for any errors. Do you see the debt being collected upon listed on your credit report? If not, this is an indication but not certain proof that the debt collector is a scammer. If you do see the debt listed on your credit report, then most likely a legitimate debt collector is making the calls, and you are either a victim of identity theft or the debt collector has bad information.
How Do I Dispute the Debt?
You may not owe the debt or may not owe the amount sought. By law, you can dispute debt you are being asked to pay within 30 days of receipt of the first letter from the debt collector. If you do not recognize the debt, you should ask for proof, like a credit application, account statements or other records of the credit account. You must put your dispute in writing, and send by certified mail return receipt requested. Be direct and clear in your letter. Keep copies of what you send and keep proof of mailing.
Document any abusive contact by the debt collector in your letter. They must stop collection calls until they respond in writing.
The debt collector has 30 days to respond. If you aren't satisfied with the proof you received, then you can write to the debt collector telling them you refuse to pay the debt. Contact us for a Free Case Review.
What Are My Rights Against Debt Collectors?
Debt collectors must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and how to proceed if you don't think you owe the money.
If you dispute the debt, write the debt collector and tell them exactly why you dispute the debt as explained above.
Demand to Cease and Desist Further Collection
You have a right to force the debt collector to stop calling you at work or to stop calling you to collect the debt. To take advantage of your right, you must notify the debt collector in writing. Include the account number used by the debt collector and tell them clearly to “Cease and Desist” collection on the account. If you have felt harassed or subject to abuse, put the details in your letter. The debt collector must stop calling, but they retain the right to file suit against you.
You have a right to be free from harassment such as:
- Threats of violence or harm;
- Obscene or profane language; and
- Repeated use of the phone to annoy or harass.
Debt collectors may not lie such as:
- Falsely threaten arrest; • Claim that they are from law enforcement; • Falsely claim that you have committed a crime; • Misrepresent the amount you owe; • Indicate that papers they send you are from a court if they are not; • Falsely claim that a lawsuit will be filed against you if it cannot be due to the passage of time; or, • Threaten suit if they don't intend to sue (many debt collectors never sue).
Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
- You will be arrested if you don't pay your debt. • They'll garnish your wages or seize, attach, or sell your property, unless they are permitted by law to take such action and intend to do so. • Legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don't intend to take such action.
If you owe a debt, debt collectors can take reasonable steps to collect the debt, including calling you a reasonable number of times seeking payment and payment agreements. Debt collectors cannot call you at work if you tell them in writing or over the phone to stop these collection calls.
Many debt collectors don't listen and don't care – they only stop harassment if they get sued. Don't delay. Federal law requires you to file suit within one year of the violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and state laws vary, but many state law claims for debt collection harassment or abuse should be filed within two years. You'll need an experienced debt collection harassment lawyer.
What Not to Do
Be wary of "debt settlement scams" often posing as lawyers or law firms. Do not hire a for profit debt settlement service that expects you to stop paying your credit cards and instead to give your money to them. Be suspicious of anyone who claims they can assist in fixing your credit or settling your debts, especially if they claim to have an "inside connection" with the companies you owe.
The Junk Debt Buyer Industry
Many times old debt charged off as unrecoverable is bought and sold for pennies on the dollar. Often the alleged debt is sold so many times that they have no idea who you really are, whether you owe the particular debt or how much is truly owed. Put the debt collector to his burden and make him prove that you owe the debt. In your letter to the debt collector be polite, fair, and to the point. It is your job to let them know that you want proof and to confirm you asked them. Send your letter by certified mail to every address on the collection letter and keep a copy of the letter and the signed green card.
Why should you contact us?
We are Nationally Recognized Debt Collection Harassment Lawyers with a record of significant wins against debt collectors. See our Case Results page.
Our law firm is experienced in representing people who are targeted for harassment by debt collectors. We know the debt collection industry. We teach other lawyers how to maximize the value of their clients' cases at national consumer law seminars.
Contact us for a Free Case Review