When it comes to debt collection, it’s important to find a balance between looking out for scams and ensuring you pay the debt you actually owe. You should begin by establishing whether or not you owe the debt the collector is contacting you about. Debt negatively affects your credit report and credit score. Make sure you take action to resolve any debts you owe.
Know How You’re Protected
To verify that the collection contact is legitimate, ask questions to find out the name of the collection agency or collection law firm and where they are located. Also, request details about the debt including the name of the original creditor, the account number, and the balance claimed. You can write to the collector and request a validation and itemized calculation of the debt.
As a consumer, you’re protected against harassment and other unfair practices by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). It’s important to ensure collectors aren’t using unfair tactics against you. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot:
- Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without permission
- Continue to call your place of employment after you ask them to stop
- Contact friends or family members about the debt or disclose information to them
- Harass you using threats or profane language
- Lie about who they are or the debt you owe
Knowing your rights before taking any action makes a potentially frustrating situation easier to handle.
Take the Appropriate Action
Once you know whether or not you owe the debt, figure out an action plan. If you owe the debt, you may want to establish a payment plan. You'll need the collector to provide written documentation showing the total balance owed. Then, figure out how much you can pay each month until the obligation is satisfied. If you enter a payment plan with a collector, be sure to obtain written confirmation of the payment terms, the payment due date, and where your payment should be sent. Keep accurate records of all payments made and when they were applied to your account.
If you’re convinced that you do not owe the debt, write a dispute letter and include any proof that shows the debt was already paid or does not belong to you.
Stop Collection Contact
At any time throughout the process, you can write a Cease and Desist letter to the debt collector that states they need to stop contacting you. This may be be helpful if the debt collector is contacting you at work, during odd hours, or if you feel your consumer rights are being violated. Be sure to send your correspondence to the collector by certified mail with a return receipt. It's important for you to have proof that your letter was received.
A Cease and Desist letter does not make the debt go away. Often the collector will transfer the debt to another collector or back to the original creditor. Once a Cease and Desist letter is sent to a collector, that collector is not permitted to contact you again or attempt collection. If the collector contacts you after receiving your Cease and Desist letter, reach out to a qualified consumer protection attorney to evaluate whether your rights have been violated.
Free Legal Help - Whether You Owe the Debt or Not
Whether you owe the debt or not, a consumer protection attorney will evaluate any communications, including calls or letters, received from a debt collector. If your consumer rights were violated, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the collector at no cost to you.