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
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
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.