Dealing with debt collector communications can be a headache. Pushy and sometimes harassing collectors can cause stress in your personal, home, or work life. Although it may be overbearing, it is important to communicate with your collectors or have an attorney communicate on your behalf.
It is important to know that effective communication with collectors is communication that does not give too much information away. In addition, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (federal law) and California's Rosenthal FDCPA (state law), which afford you protection from unfair collection practices and harassment by collectors.
Below you can find some helpful information about communications with debt collectors.
First Contact By Debt Collectors
When debt collectors first contact you, they must provide the following information:
- Their name and the agency, organization, or (under the FDCPA or Rosenthal FDCPA) business they represent
- There are specific rules as to how debt collectors must identify themselves
- That they are trying to collect a debt
- Essentially, the purpose of the call
- Any information given by you will be used for that purpose
In any communications following initial contact, the debt collector only needs to say that they represent the debt collection agency or creditor. If any of the information above is missing from the first contact, then keep a record, as it violates the FDCPA and may help oppose the debt collector.
Following this, at the time of first contact or up to five days after initial contact, the debt collector must also send you a written verification notice that tells you about your rights. The following information is required in the written verification:
- The amount allegedly owed by you
- The name of the creditor or debt collector who is owed
- The debt collector will assume the debt is valid if you do not respond in 30 days
- You have a right to request verification of the debt within 30 days
- If you make the request, the name and address of the original creditor must be sent to you
Responding To First Contact
A valuable tool for responding to first contact and the written verification notice is the debt validation letter (or debt dispute letter). This response is the same as in bullet point four above.
Notably, recording or documenting your communication with your debt collectors is helpful. Writing should be the preferred method of communicating with collectors.
Debt Validation Letter
After the first contact and the following written notice, you have 30 days to send a debt validation letter. A debt validation letter requires that the debt collector prove that you owe the debt.
Often people are contacted about debts they do not even owe or old debts that are satisfied. A debt validation letter can squash any debt collector's claims if they cannot prove you owe the debt.
Why Should I Write A Debt Validation Letter?
The debt validation letter may be helpful in any situation you find yourself in. Some cases are outlined below:
- If you don't owe anything, the collector cannot prove you have a debt to them.
- If you don't owe as much as they say, they cannot prove you owe such a large amount.
- This can prevent absurd claims against you.
- If you owe the total amount, then there is hope that the collector does not have the correct documents to prove that they own the debt or that you owe it.
- If you owe the total amount, you may get the information you need to settle the debt, negotiate for a settlement, or demand no further contact.
Including a demand to stop contacting you in the debt validation letter can prevent the debt collector from reaching out to you again. However, there are a few exceptions. The debt collector can confirm that they will stop contacting you, or the debt collector can notify you if they choose to sue you.
What Goes In A Debt Validation Letter?
The letter's purpose is to either get the collector to stop collecting the debt or to provide proof that you owe the debt (with documentation). Admitting that you owe the debt may be counterproductive to your interests. In this debt validation letter, you may make many demands of the collector. Below there are a few to consider.
- To only contact you with validation of the debt
- And to stop contacting you after sending validation
- To report the debt owed as disputed to credit bureaus
- To provide proof you owe the debt
- To provide proof that the debt collector has a right to collect the debt in the state
- To provide the total amount and accounting for the debt
- To provide whether the statute of limitations has expired on the debt
- To provide how the debt collector owns the debt
- Whether they bought it or are the original creditor
Most or all this information may help establish if the collector has a case against you in court. It is also helpful information in establishing if you should move forward with a collector settlement agreement. Contact an experienced attorney for assistance establishing or considering either of these possibilities.
What Happens If The Collector Does Not Validate The Debt?
If the collector does not validate the debt after you send your demands within the 30-day window, they must stop collection activities until they do validate the debt. If they continue to collect without providing the validation, you may have a right to damages. These cases are fact specific, so consulting with an attorney may help you better understand if your debt collector has violated the FDCPA or California's Rosenthal FDCPA.
What If The Collector Does Validate The Debt?
If the collector does validate the debt, they can continue to collect on the debt. From here, you may be able to fight the debt in court, negotiate a collector settlement agreement with the collector, or contact an attorney to assist you with either of the options above. A skilled attorney can help you negotiate a settlement (possibly to pay a fraction of the debt) or help you fight the debt collector's evidence in court.
California Collections Communication Attorney
Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC are committed to helping their clients through the collection stages, whether in communication or going to court to fight debt collectors. Please contact Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC, for your needs if you need assistance communicating with collectors. For a free case consultation, call (855) 709-5788 or contact us online today.