Are you receiving collection calls, messages, or letters? This might be a source of anxiety, and you may be tempted to either ignore them or agree to whatever they say just to make it go away. Both of these are bad ideas.
Certain collectors attempt to collect on debts for which you are not obligated to pay. If that occurs, it is your responsibility to defend yourself, as the debt collector’s sole objective is to collect payment.
With that in mind, here’s how to respond to collections calls.
How Does a Debt Collector Get Your Information?
If an organization you’ve never heard of contacts you to collect on a debt, you may believe it’s not yours. However, keep in mind that the company contacting you is not necessarily the one with whom you originally had a debt.
Consequently, it is important that you know how to respond. Do not worry about how the agency has obtained your address or phone number, as the information could have been obtained in a variety of ways, including through the original creditor, your credit report, or an online search.
If a debt collector obtained your information from the original creditor, they would have access to your personal information, including your address, the amount owed, and the company to whom you owed money. If you are dealing with legitimate debt collectors, they should have no qualms about providing information about your debt.
What Should You Do When a Collections Agency Contacts You?
1. Do Not Ignore Them
Debt collectors will continue to contact you until the debt is paid in full unless you tell them — in writing — to stop. Avoiding a debt collector when you owe money might have a negative impact on your credit score and report.
Make them verify the debt is both yours and valid before committing to paying anything. While the collector’s pitch may appear to be real, this does not mean the debt is. Alternatively, the debt collector may have revived a previous obligation that you no longer owe in the hope that you will pay.
If you submit a written complaint within 30 days of the collector’s original written notification of debt, you have the right to receive formal verification of the debt in question. Any legitimate debt collector should easily comply. This will also put an end to any collection activity until the debt’s legality is established.
Inquire about the account summary for the debt you’re being asked to pay, as well as any accompanying documents. If the debt is not truly yours, this should suffice to resolve the situation.
Additionally, you should obtain a copy of your credit report and check to verify if the debt in question is listed. Because credit reporting is never flawless, there is a potential that a legitimate debt will not appear on your record, but it is a small chance.
4. Confirm Payment.
If the debt collector who has contacted you is attempting to resuscitate an old debt that you have already paid, provide proof of payment to the collector. This might be a copy of your canceled checks or a copy of the payment from your bank statement. Additionally, you can contact the original creditor and get a copy of your account statement. This will demonstrate that you have previously settled the obligation.
However, if you genuinely have a debt, you should communicate your payment plans. In the case of credit card debt, or other unsecured obligations, this might include making an effort to learn more about Freedom Debt Relief’s credit card relief program — or others like it.
Practice Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
If the collector is attempting to collect a debt that was never yours, you will need to oppose it. Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides a variety of robust protections for just this situation — but only if those rights are invoked.