Tools to Fight Debt Harassment
Some people simply wish to stop certain types of contact by debt collectors and don’t want to get involved in lawsuits or heated exchanges. For those people, there are tools at your disposal that can help you achieve the desired result.
For example, a common complaint that many consumers have is that they receive too many unwanted telephone calls from a debt collector, which can be very annoying and stressful. One way to attempt to stop calls from third party debt collectors is to mail them a “cease and desist” letter. This is a simple letter directing the debt collection agency to stop calling you anymore, and this power was given to consumers by section 15 U.S.C. 1692c(c) of the FDCPA.
Another example of something a consumer can do to enforce their rights without filing a lawsuit involves requesting proof from a creditor or debt collector. The FDCPA generally requires that debt collectors provide consumers with a written notice of their alleged debt within five (5) days after the parties’ initial communication (quite often shared by telephone). Information that must be provided in this notice includes:
- The amount of the debt;
- The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
- A statement that “unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector”;
- A statement that “if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the deb collector”; and
- A statement that, “upon the consumer’s written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.”
This important language gives someone the right to request proof of their alleged debt, which may range from requesting a copy of the original agreement to providing a breakdown of the balance being sought. Quite often, debt collectors try to provide vague replies to these types of requests, but consumers should reiterate their request if something generic is provided. If a collector doesn’t provide proof, they should generally refrain from restarting their collection attempts until they can.
Keeping Records of Contacts
We recommend that whenever you communicate with a debt collector in writing, that you date the item and make a photocopy of the document that was actually sent for your personal records. Additionally, when possible, you should mail your paperwork to the debt collector’s proper mailing address using certified mail and requesting a “return receipt.” These extra steps will always ensure that there is no dispute regarding the content of the letter and the date in which it was received by the debt collection agency. If you have any other questions or concerns, we encourage you to contact the attorneys at Graham & Borgese for a free consultation and to learn more about your various rights and options.