If you're having financial problems, it's hard enough when debt collectors are pressuring you to pay on debts you actually owe. However, it can be just as hard when a collector is trying to force you to pay a debt you've already paid or never owed. There are many reasons why paid debts may come back to haunt you or you may be connected to debts you've never had. However, there are ways you can fight back against these collectors.
Determine The Debt Collector's Legitimacy
It's not uncommon to get calls from people trying to scam you out of your money by claiming you owe a debt. Therefore, you should make sure that the caller is an actual collection agency. Ask them them their name, address and phone number. Also, ask them about the creditor. If they hesitate or refuse to give you this information, then they may not be legitimate.
Get Verification of Your Alleged Debt
Ask them to send you, in writing, the specific details of the debt. They should inform you on what the debt is, when it occurred and exact amounts you owe including collection referral fees. Don't discuss the debt until you get written confirmation of this debt. Another thing that is useful to know is that even if you actually do owe the money, there is a statute of limitations on how long debt collectors have to collect on that debt.
Make Sure They Have the Right Person
Without giving them any more information, try to verify that you are the one that they're looking for. They may try to trick you by giving you the wrong information in hopes that you will correct them. This could make it harder for the future to dispute their claim and could open you up to a scam. You should also check your credit report for any unusual activity.
Check Your Records
Go through your personal records and see if you have proof that you've paid off the debt. This includes copies of your final credit card statement, possession of a car title (which is usually given after you've paid off your car), or other indications that your debt is paid in full. Keep these documents as proof for the next step in the process.
Send Proof That You Do Not Owe
If you've received validation of the debt, and you still think you don't owe anything, then you must send them a dispute letter within 30 days. Explain why you don't owe this debt without giving more information than is necessary. Send them the proof that the debt was paid off via certified, return-receipt mail. Block off any bank account and irrelevant personal information before sending these documents. They must stop contacting you except to tell you that they won't take further action or that the creditor will be taking you to court.
File a Complaint
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act puts limits on the tactics that debt collectors can use to collect their debts. These include restrictions on who they can contact, when they can contact and how often they can contact you. If you feel that you are being harassed or intimidated with illegal actions, then you can file a case with the state Attorney General's office or with the FTC. You can also sue the creditor for any damage caused by them violating the law.
If you've already paid off a debt, or you never owed that debt, then you have rights when it comes to debt collectors. Don't let them intimidate you into paying a bill you do not owe. If you feel that the debt collector is using abusive or illegal tactics, or you've been threatened with a lawsuit, then contact the Michelson Law Office. We specialize in dealing with debt collection issues and can help you prepare your case.