Harassing and Abusive Collection Calls?

Have you ever received harassing phone calls demanding that you make immediate payments, or else…?

You are not alone!!   There are legal tools available to combat unfair debt collection practices.  Such as;

FDCPA  (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act)

Most people know that debt collectors cannot abuse them on the phone or in writing.  What many people don’t know is that they have other legal rights too.

Have you experienced any of the following?

  • Calls from a debt collector to your employer when the debt collector has been informed that such calls are prohibited.
  • Calls to friends, neighbors, co-workers, relatives informing them that you have a debt.
  • Threatening language claiming they will;
    • To have you arrested
    • To call every day until debt is paid
    • To send police to your home or work
  • Abusive or profane language
  • Misrepresentation or deceit – A debt collector pretending to be an attorney or law enforcement officer
  • Reporting false information to credit bureaus

These are all considered abusive practices and in violation of the FDCPA.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

Within 5 days of first contacting you, a Debt collector must send you written notice about the debt they claim you owe.  The notice must include;

  • The amount of the debt
  • The source of the debt (The name of the Creditor they bought the debt from.)
  • Information about how to dispute the debt

You have 30 days from receipt of this letter to dispute the debt

DISPUTE THE DEBT !!

If you don’t believe that you owe the debt you should send a written dispute letter to the debt collection agency.  They must stop all collection activities until they can verify the debt.  Verification should include the amount owed and the name and address of the original creditor.

Click on the links below for sample letters that you can use to dispute the debt and get debt collectors off your back!

Sample Debt Collection Dispute Letter

Sample Cease Letter

Sample Cease Letter (Exempt Income)

Sample Collection Communications Log by Minnesota attorney Pete Barry

Why dispute the debt?

Your FDCPA dispute rights are a powerful tool.  Once you dispute the debt, the debt collector must stop all debt collection activities until it provides you with proof that you actually owe the debt.  If the debt collector can’t provide you with that proof, it will never bother you again.  If the debt collector does provide proof of the debt, you will be in a better position to decide what to do about it.

What are the most important things to know about your right to dispute the debt?

Under the FDCPA, your right to dispute the debt has three separate components:

Right to notice of the debt

Right to contest the debt

Right to verify the debt

There are time limits on some of these rights, so it is important to stay alert.

Know Your Rights!

RIGHT TO NOTICE OF DEBT:  Within 5 DAYS of first contacting you, the debt collector must send you a letter telling you:

The amount of the debt

The name of the creditor

Information about what you can do if you think there has been a mistake or you don’t actually owe the money

You have thirty days from receipt of this letter to dispute the debt.

How do you dispute the debt?

Within thirty days of receiving the written notice of debt, send a written dispute to the debt collection agency.  You can use this sample dispute letter as a model.  Once you dispute the debt, the debt collector must stop all debt collection activities until it sends you verification of the debt.  You can also use the sample dispute letter to discover the name and address of the original creditor.

As with all dispute letters, you should keep a copy of the letter for your records.  Also it is a good idea to send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof that the debt collector received it.  (If certified mail is too expensive, you should at least get proof of mailing.  Consult your local post office for your options.)

Know Your Rights!

RIGHT TO DISPUTE THE DEBT:  Within 30 DAYS of receiving notice of the debt from the debt collector, you can send a letter to the debt collector disputing the debt and requesting the name and contact information of the original creditor.  The debt collector must stop all debt collection activities until it can “verify” the debt.

RIGHT TO VERIFY THE DEBT:  A debt collector verifies the debt by giving you enough information about the debt so that you can tell whether you actually owe it.  The type of information that must be provided changes depending on your specific circumstances.

In most cases, verification should include, at minimum:  the amount of the debt, the date of the debt, and the name and contact information of the original creditor. If you contest the debt on grounds of identity theft or mistaken identity, verification should include a copy of the original signed contract or note. If you contest the amount of the debt, verification should include information about payments made, and interest and fees charged and/or waived.

CAN YOU DISPUTE THE DEBT OVER THE TELEPHONE?

You can, but the debt collector will be allowed to continue debt collection activities and will not have to verify the debt.  If you want to assert your right to verify the debt, you must send a letter.

CAN YOU DISPUTE THE DEBT IF MORE THAN 30 DAYS HAVE PASSED SINCE YOU RECEIVED NOTICE OF THE DEBT FROM THE DEBT COLLECTOR?

Yes, but again the debt collector will be allowed to continue debt collection activities and will not have to verify the debt.  If you want to assert your right to verify the debt, you must send your dispute letter within 30 days of receiving notice of the debt from the debt collector.

Still, if you have a good defense to the debt, you might want to dispute the debt even though more than 30 days have passed.  Dispute in writing, and include any evidence that supports your claims (such as copies of cancelled checks showing you paid the debt or a police report in the case of identity theft).  If the debt collector knows that you don’t owe the money, it should not try to collect the debt. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from making false statements about the character, amount, or legal status of your debt.

What if the debt collector never sent you written notice of the debt? You can still assert your dispute and verification rights.  The 30 day time limit will not apply.

CAN A DEBT COLLECTOR REPORT A DISPUTED DEBT TO A CREDIT REPORTING AGENCY?

If you dispute the debt, the debt collector cannot report it to a credit reporting agency unless and until it verifies the debt.  If the debt collector has already reported the debt (before it received your dispute letter), it must notify the credit reporting agencies that the debt is disputed.  After verifying the debt, the debt collector can report it, but only as a disputed debt.

A debt collector violates the FDCPA and the Fair Credit Reporting Act if it reports a debt that it knows, or should know, to be false.

SHOULD YOU DISPUTE THE DEBT EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU PROBABLY OWE THE MONEY?

Probably.  When it comes to the amount that you owe, and the creditor to whom you owe it, why trust the word of the debt collector?  The debt collector could be lying, or it could have bad information.  The dispute and verification process is designed to provide you with accurate information about your debt, so that you have the information you need to decide what to do about it.  There is no reason to give money to a debt collector who cannot or will not provide you with this information.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T DISPUTE THE DEBT?

Don’t worry.  Although you will lose your right to verify the debt, you can still stop the debt collector from contacting you by sending the debt collector a letter, called a “cease letter.”  A sample cease letter is available here.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

If you are sued by a creditor or debt collector, failure to dispute the debt cannot be used against you in court.

Our firm works with consumers whose rights have been violated under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Washington Consumer Debt Collection Act, and other consumer protection statutes.

RECORD THE CONVERSATIONS!

In order to preserve your rights under the law, it’s important for you to keep good records of all of the contacts you have with the bill collector. Here’s a great way to record all of your collection contacts in one place and in writing. It’s called the Collection Communications Log (© 2005 Peter F. Barry and the Barry Law Office, Ltd.). It will standardize, simplify, and legitimize your claims against abusive bill collectors. Click the link below for a free copy!

Collection Communication Log

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act