Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't Be a Bully Victim of Debt Collectors

Dealing with unscrupulous debt collectors has been a common consumer crisis nowadays. There are debt collectors that go as far as being brave enough to pose as law enforcement, intimidating debtors or even threatening arrest or jail time. The FTC has been busy as of late shutting down several abusive debt collection agencies using "dirty" schemes in getting victims to pay up. One being a debt collection company based out of Georgia, Williams, Scott & Associates, who was accused of being behind a scheme in which consumers whose debt the firm had purchased were threatened with imminent arrest and other phony claims, if immediate payment wasn't made. Federal authorities said the company's employees even lied to consumers by making such claims as being part of a federal task force.

The best way to avoid being bullied by shady debt collectors is to stand your ground and realize they can face some serious consequences if they do not use proper protocol. There are ways to turn the tables on them and win the advantage:

Remain calm. When a debt collector first talks to you, he is weighing up your ability to pay and may attempt to get you to say or agree on things you should not. Keep the call brief and under any circumstances, do not admit guilt of the debt before you receive validation. Remember, you are under no obligation to speak with the debt collector over the phone.

Request proof. It's time to turn the tables. Put the debt collector on the defensive and ask for proof of the debt. Again, keep it brief; politely ask for their name and contact information. Under federal rules, the collection agency is legally required to first legally validate the debt by proving you actually owe it and that they are legally entitled to collect from you, only if you request it.

Know what is right and what is wrong. These persistent buggers will often try everything up their sleeve to get you to pay, many of them being unethical or illegal. It is imperative to know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). They cannot call before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM, contact you at your place of employment if you've asked them to stop, harass you with repeated phone calls, claim to be a lawyer or law enforcement or talk to a third-party regarding your debt. There are a slew of other restrictions they have to be mindful of, and the consumer should be too. If during the conversation they break any of these rules, call them on it.

Understand the time limits or "statute of limitations". The statute of limitations, which vary by state, refers to the amount of time in which a collector can sue you for repayment of a debt. It is important to note that the statute of limitations does not eliminate the debt; it just eliminates the option for creditors to drag you into court. Collectors can still call and send you letters. Consumers should not restart the clock by inadvertently agreeing to a payment plan on the expired debt, making a payment on the old debt, or even acknowledging to the debt collector that the debt belongs to them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Secondary Debt Collectors Are Required To Provide Debt Validation Notice

Debt collection phone call harassment
When you have one debt collector calling you, things seem to get ubiquitous. All of a sudden, within a short time period, two or three other debt collectors will be contacting you regarding the same debt, which commonly happens to consumers causing countless headaches and frustration. That is the industry of debt collection. Now, what to do?

In Tocco v. Real Time Resolutions, New York Judge William Pauley, III recently ruled that secondary collectors are still required to send a validation notice to avoid confusion by consumers over who holds the debt, and whether they have the right to contest it. This means that subsequent debt collectors must send separate validation notices to the consumer, even if they received a notice from the prior debt collector.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), §1692g, a consumer has the right to request the validity of a debt being claimed against them and that the collection agency has to prove it. They must send, within five days of their initial contact with you, verification of the debt, or a notice stating the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement that the debt will be assumed valid if the consumer does not dispute it within 30 days of receiving it. Pauley also pointed out that "a consumer who has challenged an initial debt collector to verify a debt may not realize he or she has the same right with respect to a subsequent collector."

After you receive verification, this is when a consumer should immediately send your debt validation request (within the 30-day window). Basically, a debt validation letter is a request to prove the account being claimed is legally yours, the amount being claimed is correct and the collection agency claiming it has the legal right to claim it. When you send a validation request, it is advisable to send it via certified mail with a return receipt requested. The return receipt can be used as proof your letter was received by the debt collector. At this time, the collector must cease all collection efforts until you receive written proof of the debt. (View a sample debt validation request letter).

Some debt collectors play by the rules, and some do not. If any debt collector has failed to present to you the required notices, it is best to speak with an experienced consumer attorney. Consumers may sue for up to $1,000 for statutory damages, plus attorney's fees for any FDCPA violations. Stop the harassment today!