Debtor Action Plan

What to Do If a Debt Collection Is Harassing You:

  1. Keep careful track of all communications.
  2. If the communication is in writing, do not throw it away!  Save the letter and the envelope.  Write the date the letter arrived on the envelope.
  3. If you dispute any part of the debt, tell the debt collector in writing. It need not be a formal or long letter. Simply tell the collector that you dispute the debt and want verification of the debt. Do not cite laws or threaten legal action. Do this as soon as possible after your first communication with the debt collector. Make a copy of the letter. Send it via certified mail, and keep the receipts.
  4. If a debt collector has left a telephone message or voice mail, save it.
  5. Do not record a telephone conversation with a debt collector without first knowing whether you can legally record the conversation. Some states require the consent of both parties to tape. You could get sued. You should get competent legal advice before you record telephone conversations.

When talking to a debt collector, do not become abusive, insulting, or use profanity. Do not threaten legal action or cite laws. Keep good notes of the conversation, including what is said by each of you. Keep track of the date and time of call, name and phone number of collection agency, and name of the debt collector. Use the collection log mentioned above to help you.

Did You Know?  Your odds of having the case dismissed increase exponentially when you are represented by a consumer protection lawyer. And most take these types of cases for a small flat fee or even a contingency basis.

DO’S and DON’TS

If you’ve been sued by a debt collector:

DON’T PANIC – being sued is very scary, but remember this is a CIVIL proceeding so you can’t go to jail for not paying your debt. Stand up for yourself!

DO ANSWER THE SUMMONS – if you do nothing, the court will enter a judgment for the debt collector (which is what the debt collector is counting on!).  That can be used to garnish your wages or take money from your bank account, and the judgment will stay on your credit report for 10 years.

DON’T ADMIT THE ALLEGATIONS – even if you owe money to the collector suing you, you may have legal defenses that could lessen or eliminate the collector’s claim against you.  But if you admit allegations without putting forth these defenses, the court will probably hold you to what you said even if you later learn it was wrong.  If you don’t know if this debt collector legally owns your debt, or if the specific dollar amount they are suing you for is correct, then it may be in your best interest to simply say you don’t know.

HELPFUL HINT:  Many debt collectors bring suit without the necessary paperwork to prove that they have the legal right to sue on this particular debt.  So make them produce that before even discussing whether you owe the money!

DO RESPOND TO WRITTEN QUESTIONS– you will likely get written questions from the collector about the debt.  If you don’t respond to these questions, the court may deem the questions admitted so you want to provide some sort of answer.   Again, unless you know something for 100% sure, it is in your best interest to simply say so.

DON’T ASSUME THEY’RE RIGHT – just because the collector has a lawyer and has filed a lawsuit does not mean they are actually owed the money they claim.  Make them prove they are entitled to your money!

DO KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – the best way to protect yourself is to know what the collector is and is not allowed to do.