Debt collectors are third-party companies that collect money from people on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other types of debt. They are also called collection agencies, debt buyers or debt servicers.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act defines a debt collector as any person who engages in the business of collecting delinquent debts. This includes any employee of the creditor or anyone affiliated with them by common ownership or corporate control.
They are not allowed to harass, threaten or abuse you or other people they contact. They are also not allowed to swear at you, call repeatedly in an attempt to annoy you or publicize your name as someone who refuses to pay a debt.
If a debt collector contacts you, you have the right to ask them to stop. This can be done by sending them a written notice. This letter must be sent within five days after they first contact you. If they do not respond, you can file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DOB).
A debt collector must give you a debt validation letter when they first communicate with you or shortly after that. The letter must tell you the amount owed, the name of the creditor and how to dispute the debt. It must also explain that you have 30 days to dispute or request verification of the debt.
Once a debt collector has sent you this letter, they cannot continue contacting you until they have verified that you still owe the debt. This means you should never give them any personal or financial information until you receive this letter.
Do not provide a debt collector with your social security number or other personal information until you receive the validation notice. This information can be used by identity thieves to steal your identity or money from you.
Don’t allow debt collectors to contact your employer or healthcare providers unless you have given them permission. You can do this by sending them a letter that says you have asked them not to contact your employer or healthcare provider.
If they do contact your employer or healthcare provider, you can say that you have disputed the debt and want to resolve the matter outside of court. This can save you time and money.
You can also dispute the debt if you believe that the amount of the debt is incorrect or you don’t owe it. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sample letters that you can use to dispute your debt or seek verification of it.
Debt collectors must also send you a “validation notice” that tells you how much you owe and the name of the creditor. This information is important because it can help you identify the correct person to contact to settle your debt or get more information about it.
Then, you should contact the creditor and negotiate to settle your debt. You can ask for a payment plan or negotiate for lower payments or a shorter payback period.