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What do most people do when debt collectors call or send a letter in the mail? They ignore them by rejecting the call or tossing the mail in the garbage.
While those moves may work in the short-term, they won’t make the debt nor the collector go away. And while dealing with a debt collector may be the last thing on earth you want to do, you’ll have to do it eventually before your credit gets ruined or you get sued.
There are laws in your favor that can help you handle a debt collector properly. We’ll discuss those and some of their corresponding moves so you can make your debt more manageable while minimizing your stress.
What to Do When Debt Collectors Contact You
1. Make sure the debt in question is yours.
Just because a debt collector sounds legitimate over the phone doesn’t mean they are. To make sure they’re credible, ask for the following:
- Collector’s name
- Company’s name
- Phone number
- Business address
You should then ask them to verify the debt. You have every right to make this request, and they must send you a validation letter within five days. The validation letter should contain the following:
- The creditor
- The amount of debt owed
- Steps to take if you believe there’s been an error
Once you receive the validation letter, you have thirty days to send a verification letter. In this letter, ask for more information on the debt.
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If the collector refuses to provide any of this information, it’s a red flag that they may be scamming you.
2. Send a cease or stop contact letter.
If the debt collector is contacting you so often that it’s affecting your life, you can write a cease or stop contact letter via certified mail.
This will not erase the debt. Instead, it will just tell the collector to stop contacting you.
In return, they can only reach you to state that they will not contact you anymore, or they are going to sue you.
Is this your best move when you have an account that hits the collections stage? Not necessarily, as you’re better off negotiating with the collectors to get better repayment terms instead.
If you simply can’t handle any more contact, though, writing a letter may give you some breathing room.
3. Know your rights.
Contrary to popular belief, a debt collector has no right to harass you. On the other hand, you have rights when it comes to contact with them. Knowing them and being informed is essential to handling collectors properly.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), here are things a debt collector cannot do:
- Call before 8 am or after 9 pm.
- Tell lies to get you to pay the debt.
- Use profane language or harass you.
- Threaten to deport or arrest you.
If a collector does anything illegal when trying to collect the debt from you, report them to one of the following:
- Your state’s attorney general
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Better Business Bureau
Depending on your situation, you could also sue the collector by hiring a consumer attorney.
To make your case as strong as possible, take notes of the date and time you’re contacted, as well as the collector you spoke with.