You’re home after work and suddenly the phone rings with a number you don’t recognize. You pick up and an aggressive voice starts bombarding you about owing $360 for a doctor’s bill you never paid and begins shaming you about your life choices.
Debt collectors can get over-the-top aggressive incredibly quickly on a phone call. But before you let this intimidate you into paying a bill, you need to know your rights and be certain the debt is actually yours.
Collections agencies aren’t infallible and its information on you may be either incorrect or someone might have gotten ahold of your identity and run up a tab without your knowledge.
So, if you pick up the phone and hear a collections agent on the other end, you should start off the conversation by asking him to prove the debt is yours.
Most likely, you’ll need to send a written request to a collections agency asking it to verify the debt is indeed yours. Be sure to hold on to proof that you sent this letter (for example use certified mail and keep a copy).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides templates of letters to send to a collector if one of the following situations has occurred:
- You do not owe the debt
- You need more information about the debt
- You want the debt collector to stop calling
- You want the debt collector to only make contact through a laqyer
- You want to specify how you can be contacted
You can find those templates here.
Debt collectors are required by law to divulge certain information to you including:
- The name of the creditor claiming you owe money
- The amount you owe
- How to dispute the debt or get verification its yours
Therefore, if you feel the debt isn’t yours or need more information it’s 100% within your rights to ask. The collector cannot withhold this from you. If the collector immediately starts threatening you or is insistent on not giving you the information, it may be a scam. Be sure not to divulge any personal, financial information and tell the collector he cannot call back until you get a written validation notice.
If all this fails and you continue to feel harassed or believe the debt a collection agency claims is your does not belong to you, then file a complaint with the CFPB.
If the debt is legitimate, try negotiating and reaching an agreement about how much you will pay.
Be careful when you decide to make a payment to a collections agency to ensure you aren’t going to get ripped off. Don’t give the debt collector access to your bank account. This means no electronic payments, no written checks and no paying with a debit card. You can use a money order, a certified check or open a separate account specifically for paying off this debt.
If you’re dealing with a harassing debt collector and need help, reach out to us at [email protected].
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