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Monday, April 28, 2014

4 ways to stop debt collectors In their tracks

debtor rights
Debtors are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
By Brennen Kliffmueller

We all deal with debt collectors at least once in our lives: whether it is from a debt you don’t actually owe, to a debt you thought you paid off, or perhaps debts you weren’t ready for (such as medical expenses) that lapsed into collections. 

It is a simple matter of course that one will someday come into contact with collections agents, and it is equally natural that one would want the calls to stop. Fortunately, there are ways you can get the debt collection calls to stop, granting yourself peace of mind in the long run.

1. Make arrangements with the collector

If the debt is valid, a good first step would be to contact the collector directly to make arrangements for how to pay it off. May collection agencies are willing to work with consumers to pay off outstanding debt. Naturally, this should only be done if you believe the debt to be fully valid. After arrangements are made with the collector (or a payment is made) be sure to document everything including details of the arrangement, who you spoke with, their identifying information, date, time, etc. Calls are required to be recorded, and by learning the specifics you can ensure that if there is any dispute there is recorded evidence of the conversation in question.

2. Respond to collections notices

Legally, debt collectors must provide a notice within five days of contact listing the amount of the debt, who the debt is with, and that you have 30 days to respond. This is especially important if you believe the debt to be invalid – requesting written validation of the debt means that the collector cannot contact you again unless they provide written proof of the debt in question. Failing to respond to the validation notice within 30 days of receipt means the debt will be assumed valid, and allows the collector to contact you without further verification of the debt.

3. Written request to stop

If debt collectors continue to hound you, and the above recourses fail, do not apply, or simply aren’t working, you can send a written request to the debt collector to stop contacting you about the debt. Note that it is not enough to simply write a letter: documentation matters. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter you send for your records, and send it via certified mail. Further – pay extra for a return receipt, this way you can provide documentation to indicate the letter was indeed received by the collector in question. As soon as the notice is received the debt collector may only contact you again to inform you that they will no longer be contacting you, or that they are taking legal action against you. Outside of these two scenarios the debt collectors are barred from further attempts to get in touch with you.

4. File a complaint

The reason why the above methods work is because the law requires debt collectors to comply. If a collector fails to provide requested validation of the debt, ignores written requests to stop, or attempts to collect a debt that is already paid, they are in violation of the law. The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on these behaviors, but can only act if they know how the law is being violated, which requires filing a complaint. While this will not directly stop collection activities, it will effectively put the law on your side, and help yourself and your fellow consumers in the long run.

Keep in mind that just because a collector stops contacting you this does not mean that the debt is null and void – the debt still exists (unless paid off). Furthermore, a collector may still take legal action to collect the debt (where state and federal law permits). However, by taking the above actions you can grant yourself peace of mind now and in the future, and get those collection calls to stop.

About the author: This article was written by Brennen Kliffmueller. Brennen has watched countless family members and friends endure the relentless harassment of debt collectors. Through his work with Scott D. Owens, a debt collection attorney, he has learned how to not only help them but his readers with little known tips and tricks. To learn more about Brennen, visit his Google+.
1. Federal Trade Commission; 2. Consumer Finance
Image license: LendingMemo, CC BY 2.0