By: Robert J. Nahoum
Anyone who has ever dealt with a debt collection agency knows how invasive, harassing and annoying they can be. The phone rings incessantly and the letters in the mail never seem to stop. What to do? With a debt collection agency on your trail, there are a few options available to you:
- Pay them in full;
- Negotiate a settlement and pay them less than full;
- Tell them you refuse to pay;
- Tell them to cease and desist communicating with you;
- Hire a lawyer to deal with them;
- Ignore them.
Of all these options, one over the rest is almost guaranteed to continue the annoyance and harassment. Can you take a guess which one it is??? Bingo! Ignoring them.
Despite this obvious answer, too many people unwisely tear up the letters, hang up the phone and ignore the debt collection agency hoping they will simply forget all about them.
When dealing with a debt collection agency, federal debt collection laws known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short), gives the consumer a number of alternatives. Which option you choose depends largely on your circumstances. Under the FDCPA, the consumer can (1) demand that the debt collection agency verify the debt; (2) demand that the debt collection agency speak with the consumer’s lawyer; (3) demand that the debt collection agency cease and desist all communications.
What To Do When You Don’t Owe the Money:
The debt collection industry is robust with billions (billions with a B) of dollars of consumer debt being traded back and forth between debt collection agencies, creditors and debt collection lawyers. To this crowd, the consumer is little more that a line on a spreadsheet. Often, the consumer has no idea who the debt collection agency is, what debt they are collecting and whether he or she actually owes it. More often than not, the debt collection agency doesn’t know this information either. Cases of mistaken identity and mixed up filed are terribly common.
To address this confusion and protect consumers from paying debts they are uncertain they owe, the FDCPA allows the consumer to demand that the debt collection agency verify the debt.
What To Do if you Have An Attorney:
Under the FDCPA, once a debt collection agency is notified that the consumer is represented by an attorney, all communication with the consumer must stop. Any communications about the debt must then only be discussed with attorney.
Cease and Desist
Under the FDCPA, once a consumer notifies a debt collection agency in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collection agency to cease further communication with the consumer, with few exceptions, the debt collection agency must stop all communicate.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Ignoring a debt collection agency is not going to make the debt or the debt collector go away. In fact, it likely will make things worse. The best thing to do is assess your situation, determine if you owe the debt and use the protections of the FDCPA to ensure that you are protected.
The FDCPA includes a private right of action under which a consumer may sue a debt collector for FDCPA violations. If a debt collector is found to have violated the FDCPA, the consumer may recover up to $1,000.00 in statutory damages, plus actual damages (for example pain and suffering) and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The FDCPA empowers the consumer to swing the pendulum in the other direction and sue the debt collector for its wrongful conduct.
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.