The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) is the federal statute that was enacted to protect consumers from abusive collection tactics during the collection process. Despite the existence of the law, collectors regularly violate the statute in an effort to collect debts. The average debtor is not aware of the law, a collectors’ obligation to follow the law or even the fact that debtors have rights which would allow them to sue the collector for damages.
Because collectors are so eager to get paid, they often use scare tactics to convince consumers to make payment, and more consumers than you would think fall prey. Consumers end up making payment on debts they do not owe or pay more than they owe. The following is a list of simple rules consumers should take to ensure they don’t fall prey to a collector’s debt collections tactics.
1 Do NOT ignore the debt
When a collector begins contacting you, whether by phone, letter or notice of a court date, do not ignore the communication. While many consumers believe ignorance is bliss, ignoring communication from a collector can hurt you in the long run. Many people will refuse to answer a phone number they do not recognize. There is no good reason for that. Answer the phone. Most importantly, if you receive court papers, do NOT ignore it. If there is a court case pending and the consumer does not show up, the collector will surely obtain a default judgment and quickly begin wage garnishment or searching for assets.
2: Don’t Just Pay- Make Sure the collector is legitimately hired to collect this debt.
There are a lot of scams out there. Many so-called collection agencies call consumers and make the most outlandish threats, and tell people that a process server is on the way to their house. This is likely not true. If a collector or creditor is going to file a lawsuit and serve you, they are not going to warn you about it. They’ll just do it. So, when you get that threat, don’t get out your checkbook. Demand something in writing. Tell the collector that you do not give out money over the phone to someone just because they sound like a collector. Tell them you want a writing. If they refuse, or tell you they won’t do it for whatever reason, then you simply tell them you will not be paying without getting something in writing. And that writing should be on company stationary – not in an email.
3: Research the debt
If a collector is contacting you about a debt you don’t recall having, looking into the debt’s legitimacy will ensure you don’t make payment on a debt you don’t actually owe. Collectors can often attempt to collect debts you don’t owe and can also inflate the amount owed. If you think you paid it, contact the original creditor to find out if their records show that you still owe money. If you don’t, get something in writing that you can send to the collector. Check your credit report too. The creditor may be reporting information that is not consistent with what the collector is saying. The creditor may be reporting that you owe a lower balance than the amount the collector claims you owe.
4: Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
If it turns out you actually owe the debt, negotiate with the collector. Either decide to work out a payment plan or pay a lump sum, but make sure it is a plan you can afford. In the event a debt is reporting on your credit file, make sure the collector will agree to update your report accordingly to reflect your payment on the account. Don’t be afraid to make offers or negotiate a better deal. Don’t worry if you don’t work out a deal in the first negotiation. Sometimes it takes a few tries for both sides to get to a middle ground.
5: Don’t Accept Harassment or Abuse.
A debt collector is not allowed to harass or abuse a consumer. If you feel you are being treated very poorly, it is possible your rights have been violated under the FDPCA, and you you are entitled to file suit entitling you to recover statutory or actual damages if any.
If you believe your rights have been violated under the FDCPA and you would like to speak with a licensed attorney, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.