Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to send a bill collector a “debt validation” letter requesting more information about the debt you are being told is still outstanding.
This letter prompts the bill collector to send you proof of debt in the form of a complete payment history, a copy of the initial loan agreement or credit card application, and proof that the company contacting you actually owns the debt or has been assigned the debt.
While many bill collectors will send this information out to you within five days of receiving your letter, some may send you inadequate or incorrect information. Here’s what you need to do if you receive inconsistent or inadequate information about a debt from a bill collector:
The first thing you need to do is to write a dispute letter. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to dispute a debt within thirty days of receiving notice about your debt. It is then the debt collector’s responsibility to verify the debt and provide you with adequate proof that you owe this debt, or they are no longer allowed to go after it.
If the debt collector insists that they are providing you with all the information you have, you can point them to Section 809 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and indicate that your debt validation letter was sent in order to obtain a copy of all items listed there.
This includes the total amount of debt owed, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the debut, a statement that states that the debt collector has assumed the debt, and a complete payment history.
Remember you have the legal right to ask for this information, and a debt collector may not be able to collect from you if they fail to provide you with this information within five business days of receiving your debt validation letter.
If the debt collector does not provide the information you requested within five days, it’s time to escalate your case. You can contact your State’s Office of the Attorney General to report the bill collector or work with a local consumer advocate agency to voice a complaint.
At this stage, you could also hire an attorney who could prepare a case or pursue the case further on your behalf. Getting professional legal advice is your best bet for dealing with a bill collector who fails to communicate and work with you.
In some cases, you may be relieved of your debt entirely because of the debt collector’s failure to follow the law.