The Dubious Debt Collection
In my last blog, I wrote about a debt collector threatening to garnish your wages or accounts after judgment. What about the debt collector that calls harassing you about a bill you were entirely unaware of and threatening to file suit? If you haven’t paid a bill, this is a perfectly legal threat for the debt collector to make. Don’t ignore it. If you do, the debt collector will follow through and file suit against you. Once a lawsuit is filed, you run the risk that the debt collector will receive a judgment that would allow them to start taking your money and property. So, how do you deal?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have a right to dispute and receive validation of the debt.
Within 30 days of a debt collector first contacting you, you can (and should) send them a letter indicating that you dispute the debt and requesting validation (e.g. a copy of the contract, payment history, and – if a collection agency – proof that the collection agency has the right to collect from you). After receiving your timely request, the debt collector is required to cease all collection efforts until after it provides you with evidence of the debt. If the debt collector continues to try to collect the debt after you’ve made the request, you may be entitled to file your own lawsuit and seek damages from the debt collector under the FDCPA.
If you suspect the debt is not yours, but the debt collector swears it’s you and has your information attached to the debt, someone may have fraudulently used your social security number. Identity theft is a very real, and very frustrating thing. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once each year. If you are not taking advantage of this free service, you really should. In fact, go there now, pull at least one of your reports and see where you’re at. If there are other accounts that were opened with your information that are now in collection (and you know they’re not yours), you will need to take steps to report this and any other fraudulent activity as a measure to protect yourself.
Also, depending on how much debt you have and your income situation, you may consider bankruptcy as an option. Filing for bankruptcy protection would force your creditors to immediately cease all collection efforts and, at the conclusion of the bankruptcy, you can obtain a discharge of this (and other) debts, including those that may be fraudulent.
Much love, the #Lawyernerd.