If you have been contacted by a debt collector or collection agency, there are things you should be aware of and questions you should ask.
First, know you have rights under laws that have been passed just recently. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines what these rights are, as well as what a debt collector can and can’t do in the attempt to collect a debt.
It is important for you to know your rights and act on them as soon as you have been contacted by a debt collector.
Here are some things to know and questions you should ask:
1. What’s your name?
Ask for the debt collector’s name, the name and mailing address of the company and the name and phone number of his or her supervisor.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires a debt collector to provide you with this information.
If he or she continues to refuse, you should politely tell him or her you know your rights and will only speak with debt collectors who respect the law and your rights.
2. What is this about?
Ask the debt collector to supply you with the details of the debt he or she is attempting to collect.
Who is the original creditor? What was the original amount owed? How much of what you are attempting to collect is fees and interest accrued since he or she took possession of the debt?
If he or she is legitimate and has the authority to attempt to collect from you, he or she should have all of the details about your debt. If not, he or she may not be legitimate.
3. Can you verify your information?
Request verification in writing of the debt he or she is collecting, as well as the authorization to collect it from you.
A debt collector is required by law to provide proof he or she owns your debt or has been authorized to collect it from you by the original creditor.
He or she must send this proof of authorization within 30 days of your request.
“If he or she refuses, they
are violating the law.”
4. How was the debt calculated?
Ask for written proof of how the debt amount was calculated. This is another right under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
It is best to make this request via a written debt validation letter to the collection agency.
The letter should request that collection of the debt cease until it is validated and the details are provided to you. It should be sent by certified mail.
5. How will this be reported?
If any offers for balance reduction are made, ask the debt collector how these will be reported to the credit bureaus.
Chances are your credit score has already taken a nasty hit, but the difference between a debt that has been settled for less than owed and paid in full can still have a lasting impact on your credit history.
Also request a zero balance owed statement be submitted to the credit bureaus.
6. Can you send me the documents?
Any payment plan that is offered should be put into writing and sent to you before you agree to it.
If the debt collector attempts to get you to agree over the phone and to have your verbal authorization be recorded, politely refuse.
Ask him or her to send the terms in writing before you agree to them.
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