When dealing with a debt collector you need to be one step ahead of the collector at all times. As one owing a debt the biggest mistake you can make is not knowing your rights and the law. Awareness is key to not getting taken advantage of. The following is a list of the top five mistakes you can make when involved with a debt collector.
Mistake Number 1: Failing to ask the debt collector for validation of the debt
Even for a debtor that is aware of the existence of the debt, failing to request validation may result in your making payment on a debt you no longer owe. Requesting validation ensures the collector has the right to collect and that the amount being collected is valid. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) within five days of the initial communication, a collector must send you notice of the debt in writing with a statement confirming your right to dispute and request validation of the debt in writing within 30 days. Many collectors skip this step and go straight for payment. Protect yourself by ensuring the debt is valid. Make sure to send in a written request.
Mistake Number 2: Continuing communication with an abusive collector
The FDCPA was enacted to protect consumers from the abusive tactics of debt collectors. Debt collectors bank on the fact that debtors are not aware of their rights under the law. Collectors make money when debtors make payment. More unassuming debtors pay when they are intimidated. Do not fall prey to these abusive collection tactics. When you start receiving phone calls, let the collector know that you are aware that excessive phone calls are in violation of the law, as are phone calls before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. or phone calls to your place of employment after notifying the collector. If they continue to abuse you or make you feel uncomfortable, a letter advising them to cease all communications will cause the harassment to stop.
Mistake Number 3: Failing to appear in court
If you are sued by a debt collector, even if you believe the debt does not belong to you, failure to show up in court will cause more problems than necessary. Failure to show up in court for a hearing will ensure that the collector gets a judgment against you. You won’t be at the hearing to defend yourself and the debt will be deemed valid. Judgments last for 10 years or up to 20 years in some states and allows garnishments and the seizing of assets. Save yourself the time and expense of having to vacate a judgment entered against you.
Misatake Number 4: Failing to put everything in writing
When you begin receiving contact from a debt collector don’t forget to write everything down. Taking notes about your conversations, who you spoke to, when the call(s) was placed, what was said…will ensure when it’s the debt collector’s word against yours, you will have everything in writing and be able to reflect back.
Mistake Number 5: Making a payment on a debt to make a collector go away
When a payment is made on debt that is outside the statute of limitations and is time-barred (meaning you can no longer be sued for payment and it cannot be reported on your credit report), the debt, referred to as zombie debt, comes back to life in a sense. In many states, one payment no matter how small, will allow the clock to start running all over again and make the debt “collectable.” Unless you plan to pay off your old debts in full don’t make payment on old debt without getting information on the age of the debt to find out if payment is necessary.
If you are in need of advice or assistance relating to debt collection, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.