Have you been contacted by a collector? You are not powerless! You have legal rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to stop collectors and gain control of the situation.
Your Thirty-Day Window
Have you received a collection notice? Don’t ignore it! The first receipt of a collection notice contains an opportunity that you should not miss. If you dispute the debt in the thirty days after receiving notice the collector must stop all collection activities while investigating your dispute, and may not make any attempt to collect until he has provided you with verification of the debt. In addition, the debt may not be reported on your credit report during this period of time. If you do not respond within thirty days you have effectively waived your right to demand investigation under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This is an important right and may serve you well if you have any question about the accuracy of the debt. Are you in a credit repair program? The more comprehensive credit repair programs provide debt validation as part of their service at no extra charge. Simply forward the collection notice to your credit repair company immediately so that they can respond within the time allowed.
FDCPA § 809. Validation of debts [15 USC 1692g (b) “If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.”
The Cease Communication Letter
In some cases collectors can be abusive and cause significant stress. Consumers often give in to the pressure for partial payment at the expense of their food and housing budget causing needless hardship for themselves and their family. If you are faced with a high-pressure collector it may be best to put an end to their communication. The FDCPA requires collectors to stop collection efforts upon receiving a written request to stop. If you are in a credit repair program they should be happy to prepare the cease communication letter on your behalf as well as providing competent counsel.
FDCPA § 805. Communication in connection with debt collection [15 USC 1692c] (c) “Ceasing Communication. If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except — (1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated; (2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or (3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.”
In some cases, if the dollar amount is enough, and the collector believes that you have the ability to pay they may serve you with court papers. This may or may not happen. The process of filing suit is expensive and may not justify the results. Whatever a collector sounds like on the phone you can bet that the decision to pursue or not pursue your case will be rational. If you cannot afford to pay you may decide to let it take its course. As always, it is best to contact a competent credit repair professional to discuss the potential benefits and risks of any action.
Get an Attorney
The FDCPA requires collectors to stop collection efforts upon receiving notice that an attorney is representing you. Once a collector receives this notice they must direct all further communications to the attorney. This approach has several benefits. The right attorney may be able to raise useful defenses. In the credit repair business we often suggest this course of action where the dollar amount of the collection is significant or where the collector is especially aggressive.
FDCPA § 805. Communication in connection with debt collection [15 USC 1692c] (a) “Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt — (2) if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from the debt collector or unless the attorney consents to direct communication with the consumer…”
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