When you receive that dreaded phone call from a debt collection agency, nerves can make anyone clam up and forget to ask necessary questions. Collection scams are more common than ever and the only way to protect yourself from making unnecessary payments is to be informed and aware. You can avoid getting lured into making a payment that you really don’t owe by knowing what to ask a collector before handing over your hard-earned money.
First and foremost, when communicating with a debt collector, DO NOT just hang up on them. Even if you are positive you don’t have outstanding debt, there is a chance you are the victim of identity theft or have outstanding debt you don’t remember. In your first communication, inquire about the name and the company name of the person who is calling you. Establishing the collector’s identity will allow you to find out if the collection agency is legitimate. Legitimate collectors are required by law to disclose their name and the name of their collection agency. Also, ask for the phone number and address of the agency. A collector who is hesitant to share any or all information should immediately raise a red flag.
After finding out the identity of the collector ask for the information of the person from whom they are trying to collect. Make sure the collector has the right person. While this may seem fairly obvious, the collector may not have reached the correct person and you do not want to waste your time talking to a collector who is trying to reach someone else.
Most states require that collectors be licensed to collect in your state. Find out if the collector is licensed to be contacting you. You can check with your local government online to find out if your state requires collectors to be licensed and then can determine if the debt collector has permission to be contacting you.
After confirming the legitimacy of the debt collection agency, the next step is to inquire about the debt specifically. Ask specific questions like the name and address of the original creditor, the original amount of the debt and what amount has been added by the collection agency. Next ask for validation of the debt. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) debt collectors are required to send you notice of the debt in writing within 5 days of the initial communication. After receiving written communication, you have the right to dispute the debt in writing. Upon notice of a dispute, the collector must cease all communication and collection efforts until it provides proof of the debt. You should never make payment on a debt that a collector cannot validate.
If you believe your rights have been violated under the FDCPA and would like the advice or assistance of counsel, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.