When a collection agent contacts a consumer to collect a debt, the collection agent must give the consumer written notification within five days that he or she has the right to verify the debt. The consumer then has 30 days to send the collection agent a written request for verification.
Consumers have the right to dispute the existence of or validity of a debt amount. Consumers who wish to dispute all or any portion of the alleged debt must notify the debt collector that all or part of a claimed debt is disputed. Bills.com has written extensively on how to validate or verify debt. If you are just getting started in this process, follow the link just mentioned for directions on how to ask for debt validation.
Once a collection agent receives a notice of dispute, it must:
- Suspend collection activities regarding the claimed debt until the collector verifies the debt or gets a copy of the judgment against the debtor
- Provide the verification requested by the consumer
If you send the collection agent your validation within 30 days of receiving the notice, and the collection agent has not sent you any validation, or its validation is insufficient, send the collection agent a notice of insufficient validation. Here is a template of a notice of insufficient validation to help you get started:
If the collection agent still does not comply with the FDCPA and follow the standard for validation in your state, and continues to try to collect the debt, then you have two options.
Option No. 1: Cease Communications Notice
Consumers have the right to ask the collection agent to stop communicating with them. When a consumer gives a collection agent written notice he or she refuses to pay the debt or wants the collection agent to stop further collection efforts, the collection agent must cease any communications. There are three exceptions to this rule. The collection agent or original creditor may:
- Advise the consumer the agent’s further collection efforts are terminated
- Send a letter threatening to file a lawsuit against the consumer
- Notify the consumer the debt collector or original creditor filed a lawsuit against the consumer
Some collection agents view a cease communications notice as a “put up or shut up” challenge and respond by filing a lawsuit against the consumer. Therefore, the safest time to present a collection agent or original creditor with a cease communications notice is after the statute of limitations has run out on the debt.
Note that in all but two states, a collection agent or original creditor may still file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run.
Option No. 2: File a Lawsuit
The FDCPA permits consumers to sue debt collectors who engage in prohibited collection practices. The FDCPA and some similar state laws provide for injunctive relief in the form of court orders forbidding a debt collector to continue their improper practices. In addition, the FDCPA allows the collection of actual and statutory damages for individual consumers, as well as costs and attorney’s fees. The FDCPA provides for actual damages plus statutory damages of up to $1,000.
Consumers may seek remedies under the FDCPA in federal court. The statute of limitations — the time during which an action may be brought in court — is 1 year. States with FDCPA-like laws have different statutes of limitations.
Consult with a lawyer who has consumer law experience to learn if you have a cause of action against a creditor for not responding to your verification request. Also, contact your state’s attorney general and the FTC complaint page. You may not receive any assistance from your attorney general or the FTC immediately. However, if enough people notify an attorney general or the FTC about a collection agent’s illegal activities, either one or both may launch an investigation that results in fines or other punishment.
I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.