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Dealing With a Debt Collector

1. Familiarize yourself with the Fair Credit Reporting Act – Google it if necessary and print out. You have rights. Yes, a debt collector has every right to collect on a debt you legitimately owe, but there are rules and restrictions – formally known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) – that govern how they can go about their business. Under any circumstances to you have to tolerate abusive behavior. It’s not legal. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits this kind of conduct. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was created for the sole purpose of protecting consumers from debt collector harassment by prohibiting certain debt collector behavior. If a debt collector exhibits such behavior, be sure to document the behavior. Keep a log of all harassment. Your next move is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You may request forms from the Federal Trade Commission, or you can write a letter yourself. Send it to 6th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20580, or visit them online. Be sure to include in your complaint the collection agency’s name and address, the name of the original creditor, the dates and times of all communications, the names of any witnesses, and copies of any other material (written communications, tapes of conversations, your debt collector harassment log, etc.)

2. Negotiate a Settlement On Your Terms, Not Theirs – Go over your income and expenses with a fine-tooth comb, figure out what you can afford, and only agree to pay a realistic amount. Payment plans are not always necessary and usually by the time your debt reaches third party collectors, it’s at last end before being written off. If you agree to a payment plan, you will likely pay more over time. Avoid this if you can. If you do agree to a payment plan, make sure you fully understand the total amount you will pay.

3. Zombie Debts Still Exist – A Zombie debt is an old debt that just won’t die. To piggyback off of Number 2, Collection accounts get resold all the time, and it’s not uncommon for someone to get a call about a debt that’s outside the statue of limitations or no longer owed. The latter is illegal, but the former may not be: The statue of limitations applies to how long a collector has to sue you over a debt, but, in many cases, they can still try to get you to pay. Do not pay it right away. Get the collector to validate the debt before even acknowledging that it exists. People unknowingly restart the clock on old debts by paying part or even agreeing over the phone that it’s yours. The key to defend yourself against Zombie Debts is to do your due diligence. Look at your credit reports to see if the debt is latched on. Dispute the debt, with the credit bureaus. Get all details necessary to fight it. That’s how you get it off your credit report.

4. Beware of Scammers – Always get the debt collector to identify themselves with their name, company, street address, telephone number and if your state licenses debt collectors, a professional license number,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has more tips for spotting a debt-collection scam on its website. By law, you are entitled to verification.

5. Do Not Fall For The “Just Pay Something” Trap – Once you pay anything, especially giving payment over the phone. You are back to restarting the clock as debt gets bumped right up on your credit report based on how least or more often you pay. Always ask the collector to send you something in writing. Debt collectors must investigate a debt so long as you file a dispute in writing within 30 days of their initial contact – and they’re to cease contact until they verify (again in writing) that you owe the amount in question.