Know Your Rights

Five Basic Rules of Dealing With Debt Collectors

If you are anything like thousands of Americans, you have missed a few payments here and there on your bills and have been contacted by a debt collector looking to make sure you to pay up.  Having a debt collector contact you is stressful, and if you don't know the basic rules of how to deal with debt collection you may put yourself at risk of paying more money that you actually owe.  Learning the ins and out of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), the statute that was enacted to protect consumers from the unfair tactics of debt collectors, will ensure your rights are not violated and that you are not taken advantage of.    

First and foremost, make sure that the debt actually belongs to you.  This is called verification.  Even if you are positive that the debt is yours, it is still your right to have the collector provide you validation.  Validation (or verification) allows you to guarantee that the debt belongs to you and that the amount being collected is accurate.  You may access your credit report to see if the debt is reporting and if the amount reported matches the amount being collected.

Second, if contact by the collector is by phone, request that the collector send you something in writing.  Under the FDCPA, collection agencies must send you a written request, or a dunning letter, within 5 days of the initial verbal communication.  The letter must include the name of the original creditor and the amount owed.  The letter must also include a statement notifying you of your right to dispute the debt and request validation.  Failure to provide you with a written letter is a violation of the FDCPA.

Third, make sure the amount being collected is accurate.  Often times, collection agencies will try to collect a dollar amount from you than is more than is legally owed.  Collectors are not allowed to tack on any additional fees or interest than is permitted by the contract that you entered into.

Fourth, do not allow the collector to take advantage of you by bullying.  Collectors often use threats and intimidation to force a debtor into making payment.  The purpose of the FDCPA is to protect you from this type of abusive conduct.  Do not allow a collector to treat you with disrespect or to break the law.  Under the FDCPA, a collector cannot call you at an inconvenient time; cannot call you at your place of employment after you have told the collector not to; cannot use obscene or harassing language;  and cannot threaten to sue you if there is no intention to file suit.

Fifth, if you receive a call from a debt collector, do not agree to make payment initially.  When a collector reaches out to you, you must ask all the right questions and take your time before handing over a check.  You may be able to negotiate a settlement amount or payment plan if the debt is legitimate and you may in fact not have to pay your debt at all if the amount collected is passed the statute of limitations.   The statute of limitations in your State imposes the number of years a collector can legally sue you over the unpaid debt. 

If you are being contacted by a debt collector and would like to speak with an attorney, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.

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