You answer the phone and a debt collector states you owe a random debt that you are unaware of. The debt collector asks you to make a payment over the phone. Your mind is racing trying to figure out where you incurred this alleged debt. The debt collector continues to pressure you for payment. They may even state if payment is not made soon, you will be sued. Here’s the reality- you most likely don’t owe this alleged debt! Illegitimate debt collectors regularly engage in this predatory conduct in an attempt to scam consumers. The sad part is many consumers fall victim to this scam. They feel pressured into making a payment because they fear being sued, so they make a payment over the phone to make the debt collector go away. The natural question is- how do I not become a victim of collection fraud?
The first step in preventing collection fraud is to become educated on the law. Within five days after their initial conversation with a consumer, debt collectors must send a written validation notice to consumers, which will give some background on the debt. See 15 U.S.C. §1692g(a). This validation notice will describe the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed, and describe the way a consumer can dispute the debt. See 15 U.S.C. §1692g(a)(1-5). Thus, the easiest way for a consumer to prevent becoming a victim of collection fraud is by simply asking the debt collector to send something in writing which verifies the debt. If a debt collector refuses to do so, nine times out of ten, they are an illegitimate debt collector. They may say they already sent you a letter or aren’t required to do so. If this happens, tell them to send another letter. At the end of the day, a legitimate debt collection company will have no problem sending you another letter informing you about the debt. Something else you should be aware of- if you are dealing with a legitimate debt collection company and they fail to send you a letter within five days of your initial conversation, you can sue them under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This entitles you up to $1,000 in statutory damages, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Unfortunately, if you are dealing with an illegitimate debt collector, there is not much you can do to make them stop. Suing them is not an option because many of the illegitimate companies are insolvent- you can’t get blood from a turnip. I have found that the best practice is to show these companies you are educated on the law. Once they realize they cannot scam you, many times they will move on to the next person. Tell them you have spoken with an attorney and you know they are illegitimate. Lastly, you can block their numbers. Unfortunately, many of these illegitimate companies use numerous telephone numbers to contact you, so blocking them becomes a hassle.
WHAT DO I DO NEXT TIME THEY CALL?
Simple- asks them to send you a letter which verifies the debt. After that, you should contact a qualified consumer protection attorney. A good consumer protection attorney will be able to verify whether the company is legitimate or illegitimate. If they are legitimate, you want to send the aforementioned collection letter you should receive to the attorney for review. As discussed in one of my previous blogs, “Why Not To Trash Debt Collection Letters”, many of these collection letters contain federal violations that could entitle you up to $1,000. If you are receiving collection calls or letters, feel free to call me at (727) 344-0123, or e-mail me at Jon@BerkMyer.com. I will review your collection calls and letters at no-cost.