Most people realize that at some point – and it could be years and months – they will be contacted about a debt that has gone unpaid. This debt moves from the original source (e.g., retailer, credit card company, etc.) to a collection agency and then could bounce from one collection agency to another throughout this whole time.
No one likes to hear from a collection agency. In fact, the reaction is not usually a good one. If you owe the money, you owe the money. Or do you?
You, as the debtor, have the right to ask for verification of any debt against you. This is one of the main reasons why it’s imporant that you check your credit report often. It’s quite common that people forget about a debt – and that’s understandable with the chaotic world we live in. Checking your credit report will show to whom you owe money and how much.
From the first time you are contacted by a debt collection agency, you have 30 days to ask for verification of the debt. “Contacted” includes a letter, phone call, voice mail message, email, etc. The first contact from this particular agency is when the 30 days starts. During that time, you are entitled to ask the collector to provide you with verification of the debt. At this point, a few things can happen:
- The collector will try to convince you that you do owe the debt. They may tell you that it shows on your credit report or they have the proof from the creditor. YOUR ACTION STEP: Ask for a copy of the credit report on which they see this debt and/or the verification they have from the debtor. Be prepared that the collector may try to talk you out of this request. Stand firm because mistakes are made, or the debt may have been written off by the original source.
- The collector may offer you a settlement for a lesser amount. Remember, the goal is to keep this from going back to the original source. Why? Because there’s chance the original source may decide to erase the debt – and the collector gets nothing if that happens. YOUR ACTION STEP: Don’t fall prey to the “this offer is only good today.” The collector wants to get paid: today, tomorrow, or next week. Stick to your rights and ask for verification.
Debt collection is not an easy thing to deal with – especially when high pressure and backyard bully tactics are utilized. By knowing what rights you have does give you the upper hand in the discussions. Instead of the collector belittling you to feel like a failure, a burden on society, or even a criminal, you become the person in charge of what happens…and that can be a great feeling in an otherwise not so great situation.