Besides receiving calls from telemarketers, the phone calls most people dread receiving are the ones from debt collectors. “Hello, is this Bob Smith?” Your response, “Uh..Bob Smith is my brother. Who’s this?” Yes. Many of us have received that phone call for friends and relatives, and they don’t just usually call once either. Sometimes, they harass people who really have nothing to do with the supposed debt they are calling about. Not everyone knows what’s right or fair, and whether or not they are victims of a potential phishing scheme.
Here’s how you know:
- Collection agencies must provide a letter of confirmation. If a debt collector is genuine, they have 5 days from the date of their first phone call to send you a confirmation letter. The letter should not only show you the balance and demand payment, but it should also clearly state your rights, company contact info, and payment details.
- Verify their info and report them. Sometimes, debt agencies get your information wrong, and it happens. If your debt is legit, you need to confirm it’s not an outright scam by getting their complete info and doing a search. Some companies say they are calling from an attorney’s office. Get the attorney’s name and details, and check out their name with your state’s bar association. In a case where you suspect a scam, file a complaint with the police and the state attorney general’s office. If necessary, report bogus debt collection to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Request a credit report and check for inconsistencies. It’s important to get yearly credit reports to see what’s listed under your name. If you receive a call from a debt collector telling you that you owe money to another company. Get as many details as you can and check your credit report. Quite possibly, the debt was incorrectly reported to your report. This happens too and there are measures you can take to get rid of a debt that isn’t yours.
- All debt has a statute of limitations. Collectors cannot collect a debt once it has reached the statute of limitations. Check with your state’s laws on what their statute of limitations are. Often, agencies will try and trick you into reactivating your debt by making a payment. This will restart the statute of limitations over again, and they will definitely have the go-ahead to demand payment from you going forward. If the debt is on your credit report even though the statute of limitations now applies, there’s not much you can do because it’s not required to come off your report until it reaches the seven-year mark.
- Request proof of your debt in writing. In other words, once you’ve received notification of your debt, you have 30 days to request proof that the debt is actually yours. Until a debt collector can actually prove that a debt belongs to you, they have to hold off on collecting for the time being.
- Hire an attorney. If you’re unsure of a collection agency and how they have treated you, contact an attorney that specializes in fair debt collection practices. They may be able to help take your issue a step further if necessary.