You were checking your mail when you saw an unusual letter from a credit collector. You didn’t realize it, but one of your credit cards had gone to collections. The full balance is saying that it is due, and that’s something you can’t afford. You’re not even sure why you’re being asked to pay from a creditor, because you were never told that you missed payments.
When a debt collector contacts you by mail, it is important that you respond to them. How you respond makes a difference in how you’ll be able to handle the claim as well.
The first thing to do is to get to know your rights. You’re protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prevents debt collection companies from being abusive, deceptive or unfair when attempting to collect a debt. Debt collectors cannot:
- Threaten to have you arrested
- Lie to you
- Use obscene language
- Make misleading or false statements
- Abuse you
- Mistreat you
- Call and harass you repeatedly
- Contact you at an inconvenient time
- Publish your name for failing to pay
Now that you have a debt collection letter in hand, you need to make sure that the debt is authentically yours. If you’re taking a call, then ask whom you’re talking to, the name of the debt collection company, the name of the original creditor and the amount owed. This information should be listed on the letter you received. If a company calls you, ask them to send you a letter to your address.
Once you find out if the debt is legitimate, then you need to act fast. If the debt is very old, then it may have met the statute of limitations. If so, you may want to talk to your attorney about what happens next to eliminate the debt.
If you’re not sure if the debt is yours, your attorney can ask the debt collector for more information. When a debt isn’t yours, then write to the collector and state that it is not your debt. Ask them not to contact you about the debt again in the future.