Connecticut Better Business Bureau suggests consumers get proof of a debt before paying a debt collection agency too quickly.
Before you pay, you are entitled to a Debt Validation, which protect your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
“Debt validation helps verify whether you owe money on an old debt, a debt which you already paid, someone else’s debt or scammers to collect money,” according to BBB spokesman Howard Schwartz. “Debt validation can correct errors and stop collection agencies from bothering you for money you don’t owe.”
Upon receipt of a debt collection notice, send a letter to the collector requesting a debt validation document, something a rogue collector won’t be able to produce. Connecticut BBB recommends sending the letter by registered return receipt mail, to prove your letter was received.
The debt validation should contain the name of the original creditor, the total amount of the original loan and any balance due. Once your letter is received, the collection agency is obliged to stop all collection attempts.
Sometimes the debt is legitimate, in which case you can attempt to negotiate a payment plan and to reduce the amount you owe. In other cases, the debt may belong to someone else, you may have already paid it or it may be a collection notice or phone call from a scammer trying to extort money from debt-free consumers. If a debt collector cannot provide a debt validation, credit reporting companies may not list the disputed amount as a negative entry.
Once you receive a collection notice, you have 30 days to send your request for the debt validation.
BBB offers the following tips for dealing with a collection notice:
Check the calendar - Connecticut has a six-year statute of limitations for debt collection actions resulting from simple and implied contracts.
Be careful with communications – If you contact the debt collector, experts recommend against saying the debt is yours or that you intend to pay, otherwise this resets the clock on the statute of limitations in favor of the collection company.
Some Rules are different for original creditors – If the debt is confirmed by the original creditor, they are not required to provide proof of validation, however, you can still dispute the debt under the FDCPA. Once the creditor receives a letter disputing the debt, they are obliged to investigate and inform the credit reporting companies that the debt is under dispute.
Obtain contact information – In your request for debt validation, ask for as much information as possible, including the name of the collection company, the individual handling your case and their telephone number and address. Most of this information should already be on the collection notice.
Keep notes and copies – Your notes should include the date of correspondence you received or sent, a telephone call log and photocopies of all documents, which would help you settle a dispute.
By taking these measures and knowing your rights, you will be less inclined to pay money you don’t owe, and protect the accuracy of your credit reports. They may be obtained at annualcreditreport.com, or by telephone at (877) 322-8228. They will ask for your date of birth and Social Security Number to verify your identity.
Don’t let anyone bully or threaten you into paying a debt that has not been verified. If an identifiable debt collector doesn’t follow regulations, you can file a complaint at bbb.org.
You will find additional information about your rights from the Federal Trade Commission, where you can also file a complaint with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and contact the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General online or by telephone at (860) 808-5318.
Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB helps consumers find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust, offers objective advice and a wide range of education on topics affecting marketplace trust.
BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses. Today, 113 BBBs serve communities across the United States, Canada and Mexico, evaluating and monitoring more than 4.7 million local and national businesses and charities.
For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org/connecticut.