When debt collectors call and attempt to collect a debt they claim you owe them, you have a right to ask for proof of the debt they claim you owe. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act[i] (FDCPA), the debt collector has an obligation to provide written verification of the debt. In fact, within five days of contacting you, every collector must send you a written “validation notice” including the name of the collector, the amount they claim you owe, and your options to dispute the debt if you believe it is not believe you owe the money.[ii] If you want the collector to stop calling you, they must cease their debt collection efforts if you send them a letter indicating that you dispute any portion or the entire amount of the debt.[iii] Despite the clear and well-stated collection practice rules stated in the FDCPA, debt collectors violate Federal law and consumers can sue them and win in court.
Suzanne Husted’s story: fighting back against bad debt collectors
Like many people who experience a cash flow crisis from time to time, Suzanne Husted chose to take out two payday loans, each for $300, and paid them back within a few months. Husted took and repaid the payday loans about 10 years ago. One day recently, Husted started receiving phone calls from two different debt collection companies claiming she still owed $2,400 in principal and interest for the payday loans. She was threatened with being sued and hauled into court if she did not pay.
Assuming the collectors had bad information upon which they relied, Husted asked them to verify when she took out the payday loans. They responded and said she took the loans in 2010 and 2011, half a decade after Husted actually obtained and repaid the loans. Shockingly, when Husted asked for written verification of the loans, she was told she would only see that information when they file lawsuits against her. Husted started sending payments, in fear of being sued, for money she did not owe.[iv]
Consumers have a right to receive a debt validation notice from a creditor.
Federal consumer law is very clear, “Every collector must send you a written ‘validation notice’ telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice must also include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.[v]” If a creditor asks you for money and you do not think their records are correct, ask for the validation notice. There is a good reason a third party collector might not cooperate in sending you validation notice – they have no documentable proof you owe the debt!
Buying and selling lists of debts is big business in the debt collection industry. One of the top consumer complaints about debt collection practices is that debt collectors are trying to collect money the consumer either paid or no longer owe, or debts the consumer never incurred in the first place. An innocent consumer might find it shocking that debt collectors might knowingly try to collect on debts they cannot prove, but it is an unfortunately common practice.
Thousands of consumers complain and fight back when collectors refuse to provide debt validations.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) receives tens of thousands of complaints about deceptive and fraudulent debt collection efforts. The failure to provide debt verification is a top complaint among consumers and their lawyers who file individual and class action lawsuits against bad debt collectors who violate consumer laws such as the FDCPA. To learn more and read about the worst offenders, read our recent blog article, Report Summary: The most reported abusive and deceptive debt collection companies on the Zamparo Law Blog.
If you receive a suspicious debt collection call, keep a good record. Always make a note of the date and time of a collection call and ask the caller for their name or operator identification number. Ask detailed questions about the debt they claim you owe, and ask for verification. Your time and damage from harassment are compensable by law. You may be entitled to sue for individual damages as well as statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
Fraudulent and deceptive collectors are counting on you not to do anything to stop them. Prove them wrong, and let them know consumers will fight for their rights. The Zamparo Law Group can help.
The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect.
To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.