What are your rights in dealing with a collection agency?
According to the act, a collection agency must submit to you in writing who the original creditor was, the original creditors contact information (if account was sold who owns the account now), and the amount owed. After you request this information, they must send the information to you via letter. You also have rights that state the collection agency must not threaten you in any way. If they do, you can prosecute.
You have rights, but you are still responsible for your debts. If you refuse to pay the debt, whether you think you have a valid reason or not, the collection agency has a right to get a judgment and garnish your wages or bank accounts. Having had something repossessed does not mean that it was "taken care of." It was your responsibility to make sure your name was cleared rather than just assuming that it was. If the furniture had decreased in value from normal wear and tear, it is very likely that you owed more on it than it was worth at the time it was repossessed.
It is wonderful that you are trying to get your life back together, but that means nothing to the collection agency and it does not release you from your financial responsibilities. Most collection agencies train their employees in collection laws and they know what they're doing. Nobody likes a bill collector, but we all know that they're necessary.
Each state has a statute of limitations (SOL) for debts incurred. If your debt is outside the SOL then you are not legally required to pay it. Period. A debt outside the SOL is an affirmative defense in a lawsuit.
Properly trained and well-mannered debt collectors (DC) are the exception, not the rule. Verbal abuse may be recorded, in most cases, with one-party consent, and used against the collection agency in a suit alleging violations of the FDCPA.
Rights are retained in writing only. Do not settle for telephonic exchanges, decisions, or promises. Some states, particularly Ohio, have more severe rules regarding violations of the FDCPA.
Do not ignore the DC or the dunning letters. Some DCs follow the law, but your are responsible to ensure any contact with a DC is lawful. If they violate your rights, they sure won't sue themselves over it.
When dealing with collections agencies, make sure you are familiar with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), at minimum.
Here are some points.
Who is a debt collector?
A DC is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. This also includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.
How may a debt collector contact you?
A DC may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or Fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m, unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves. Further, they cannot call you at home if you have written them and told them not to do so.
Can you stop a DC from contacting you?
You can stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection agency telling them to stop. Once the agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact. The agency may notify you if the DC or the creditor intends to take some specific action. In the early stages of validation, there is no reason to prevent all contact. Written communication is the safest and preferred method. They put their claims in writing, and you respond.
Can a DC contact anyone else about your debt?
If you have an attorney, the DC may not contact anyone other than your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live and work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such permissible third parties more than once. In most cases, the DC may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.
What must the DC tell you about the debt?
Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
Can a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe you do not owe money?
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money (demand for validation). However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.
What is a validation?
It is a demand that the DC produce competent legal evidence you owe the alleged amount. A certified copy of a signed contract is an example. You may demand a validation at any time after you have been contacted by the DC. You are not limited to the initial 30 day window.
What types of debt collection practices are prohibited?
1) Use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation;
1) Falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives;
Debt collectors also may not state that:
1) You will be arrested if you do not pay your debt;
Debt collectors may not:
1) Give false credit information about you to anyone;
1) Collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law;
You have rights. But only YOU can assert them.