If you have ever been behind or unable to pay a consumer debt that you owe, you have probably had the unfortunate experience to deal with a high-pressure debt collector. At best, debt collector tactics are annoying, but at their worst, they can be unethical and, in many cases, illegal.
Fortunately, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that shield you from predatory collection tactics. It is crucial that you understand them before you say anything or agree to make any payments.
Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics
Many people are ashamed of carrying massive debt, even though it may have been caused by circumstances beyond their control. Debt collectors prey on that guilt and use it to create an urgency to get you to agree to pay anything.
However, don’t pay and don’t promise to make a payment at this time. Paying even $5 can cause serious ramifications. For instance, if the statute of limitations has expired on the debt, making any payment can reset the clock and lead to actions, such as wage garnishment or a lawsuit.
Gather the facts on the debt
Debt collectors are typically third-party entities that buy debt from the original creditor, and they often sell that debt to others. That can lead to shoddy bookkeeping practices containing many errors over the amount of the debt or even the party to which it belongs. Take these steps if you are contacted:
- Request a validation letter: This document includes details about what you owe, the collection company and how you can challenge the debt.
- Review your records: Once you receive the validation letter, see if the information matches the original creditor as well as the history of any payments you have already made.
- Document all contact: Keep updated records of any communication with the debt collector and whether any payments were made. Use certified mail to document that the company received any payments or other information.
Understand how you can protect your rights
The FDCPA is your ally, and with the help of an experienced consumer law attorney here in Minnesota, you can avoid predatory collection tactics. These protections specify how and if debt collectors can contact you and prohibit them from using profane language or threatening techniques
They are not allowed to mislead you about their identity, what you owe, and they cannot make threats, such as that you will be arrested if you don’t pay. You have the right to dispute the debt, and a knowledgeable lawyer will aggressively fight for your best interests.