Unscrupulous debt collectors, debt collection scams, and computer dialed calls with pre-recorded messages can make it difficult for consumers to determine if a debt is real and if they should pay it. So, before you make any payments to a debt collector, get some basic information.
Ask the Debt Collector About the Original Debt
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires debt collectors to provide a consumer with certain information about a debt during the initial communication or within five days of the initial communication if it was not provided then. This information must be given to the consumer in writing and must include:
- The amount of the debt;
- The name of the company or person to whom the original debt is owed;
- Notice that you have 30 days to dispute the debt before it is assumed to be valid; and
- Notice that upon written dispute the collector will send written verification of the debt
If a debt collector refuses to provide you with this information, it could be scam, and at the very least, they are in violation of the FDCPA and you may have a claim against them. Either way, if you cannot verify that you actually owe the debt, you should not make any payments on it.
Check to Make Sure the Amount of the Debt is Correct
Never take the word of a debt collector about how much is owed on an account. Once you have been provided with the amount of the debt, check your records to ensure that all payments have been correctly applied and that the collector has not added additional fees or interest that your original contract does not allow. Adding such additional fees is a violation of the FDCPA and you are not liable for any charges that were not addressed in your agreement with the original creditor.
Be Sure the Debt is Not Time Barred
Each state has a statute of limitations with limits the amount of time a creditor or debt collector has to sue a consumer to collect on a debt. If the time limit has expired, the debt is time barred and you may choose not to pay it. You should consult an attorney however before doing anything concerning a time barred debt, as it may still affect your credit and the collector may still contact you in an attempt to collect.
Ask if the Debt Collector Will Accept a Lesser Amount
Oftentimes a collector will accept less than the amount owed if you can make a substantial onetime payment. However they probably will not offer a settlement if you do not ask for one, so try to negotiate a lower amount if you decide to pay the debt. You may want to consult an attorney to help you do this, as an experienced FDCPA may be able to help you settle your debt for far less than what is owed.
If a debt collector or creditor is attempting to collect the wrong amount on a debt, adding fees you do not owe, refuses to provide you with verification of the debt, or you need help negotiating a settlement, please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.