Dealing with Debt Collectors
While debt collectors don’t want you to realize it, you are entitled to Debtors’ rights.
Did you know it is illegal for debt collectors to:
- Call so frequently that it is harassing
- Threaten to have you arrested for not paying a debt
- Keep calling you if you write and tell them to stop
- Inform most other people that you owe a debt
- Pretend to be an attorney in order to scare you
- Contact you if you have retained an attorney
- Try to collect more than is owed
- Sue you over time barred debts
While not all debt collectors act in such illegal ways, the ones who do generally do so because they know most people won’t fight. The best way to show an abusive debt collector that you aren’t an easy mark is to know your rights and to retain a consumer protection attorney if your rights are violated.
Some important things to NOT do when communicating with debt collectors:
- Don’t admit to the debt; admitting to the debt may reset the statute of limitations (how long they have to sue you). Debt collectors will also use it in court if you are sued. Many consumers, even if they did have a particular account, are being asked to pay more than is legally owed or are being asked to pay some debt buyer who may not even have a right to collect. You don’t need to admit to any amount of debt, or even owing the debt, to settle a debt.
- Don’t fall prey to their, “Make a payment so I know you’re willing to work with us to deal with this” trick. Making a payment could reset the statute of limitations and otherwise be used to show you owe the debt. It is a good thing to settle debts that you owe if you can afford to do so, but making payments on a debt without having a settlement agreement in place is more likely to harm you than help you.
- Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Debt collectors prey on emotions; particularly fear and upset. The best thing you can do for yourself is keep calm. If they are being abusive, such as yelling at you or swearing, hang up the phone and immediately take notes.
Dealing with the Phone Calls
Common Phone Violations
- Calling when it is inconvenient
- Not informing you that the call is to collect a debt
- Not informing you who is calling
- Using abusive or threatening language
- Making threats they have no intention of following through on
- Using misleading language
The most important thing to remember when dealing with debt collector phone calls is that you are in charge. You decide whether to answer a call. You decide whether you want to talk. You decide if you want to make a payment.
Dealing with Letters
Common Letter Violations
- Not sending a letter within 5 days of the initial contact
- Not informing you of the right to debt validation on the first written contact
- Using an attorney letterhead when an attorney isn’t involved
- Threats to sue when they have no intention of suing
- Not informing you the letter is sent to collect a debt and they are debt collectors
- Stating that the amount owed is higher than it actually is
While we appreciate the impulse to throw out debt collection letters, we would encourage you to save them. Debt collectors will sometimes violate the law in their letters so it is important to retain the letters in case you later sue a debt collector for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or other consumer protection laws.
When you receive a letter you should note when the letter was received. This date can be important for protecting your right to request a debt validation.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act you can request a debt validation from a debt collector. A debt validation request is a letter stating that you don’t recognize the debt and you want the debt collector to send proof of the debt.
Time Frame for Debt Validation
A debt collector must send you a letter notifying you of your right to request a debt validation within 5 days of the initial contact. You must send them a letter requesting debt validation within 30 days of receiving their letter.
What to ask for
A debt validation request must be in writing. If you do request one, and in general we encourage people to do so, you can ask for the name of the original creditor and dispute either part of all of the debt. You should inform the debt collector whether telephone calls are inconvenient, such as calls to your cell phone, calls during specific times, or calls to your work.
Make sure to keep it simple. One can find all sorts of debt validation letters online that are filled with nonsensical requests and demands. Such demands do not benefit you and may prove to be harmful to your interests if you end up in court.
Here is an example debt validation letter.
Dealing with Other Businesses
At Henderson Consumer Law, we also help with a variety of other situations where businesses take advantage of consumers. One area where there are a lot of abuses are car sales. Too often dealers are willing to lie about the quality of the vehicle or some other thing such as how much the fees and taxes are.
In most situations, if a business lies about something, and you rely on those lies, you have a right to have that business fix the lie, either by providing you with what they said they would provide, or compensating you for damages that resulted from their lie. Contact us for a free consultation on whether your situation is something that we think we can help with.
Dealing with Credit Reporting
Most of us are affected by our credit reports; whether determining the interest rates on car and house loans, whether we can open up a new bank account, or even whether we can obtain housing. Because of this it is important to make sure that your credit report is accurate.
At Henderson Consumer Law, we help consumers who have incorrect, damaging information on their credit report. Under both state and federal law you have a right to an accurate credit report and if a business won’t fix it voluntarily, you can force them to fix it by suing them.
Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case. In most instances, if we take your case on, you won’t pay any money out of pocket because the laws require the other side to pay for your attorney fees if you are successful.