Receiving a bill in the mail or a phone call from a new creditor or a debt collector you’ve never worked with about a debt you’ve never heard of before, this can set off alarm bells. Determining whether or not you actually owe the debt you are being saddled with is critical; in some cases, a creditor may claim that you owe more than you actually do or that you did not make payments when you did.
Here’s what you should know about disputing collections and how an experienced debt collections attorney can help you.
Can I Dispute the Debt I Owe?
If you are informed by a creditor or debt collection agency that you owe a bill that you don’t think you owe, you can dispute the validity of the debt. This means that the bill collector must then prove that the debt does, in fact, belong to you and that you are responsible for paying the amount shown.
It’s generally good practice to dispute any debt that you owe, because often, bill collectors will not be able to trace down the original information about the debt or prove who sold the debt to whom and when. If the creditor cannot provide sufficient proof that you do owe the money, this means that the debt may have to be discharged and you will no longer have to pay it.
What Is a Debt Validation Letter?
Creditors and bill collectors are required by the Federal Trade Commission to provide you with a debt validation letter that offers details about the debt, including the amount owed, what the debt is for, when it was incurred, etc. from the outset.
A debt collector who refuses to send such a letter to a debtor or who does not respond to a verification letter sent by the debtor is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This Act requires collectors to submit a signed debt validation notice within five (5) days of initial communication with the debtor.
The following items should be included in a debt validation letter:
- The sum of the debt the creditor claims you owe
- The creditor’s name and contact information
- A statement that the debt will be considered valid by the creditor if you do not contest or dispute the debt within 30 days
- A statement that the debt collector must verify the debt by mail if you send a debt verification letter or dispute the debt
- If the collector is not the original creditor, a statement must be included that the collector will provide information about the original creditor within 30 days of your request
If you receive a phone call or a bill from a debt collector, you should look for a validation notice to follow. If you don’t receive one within 10 days of the first time the creditor contacted you, you should send a verification letter.
A verification letter is sent by you to the creditor, requesting that you be provided with information about the debt that you have a legal right to. You can send a verification letter if you don’t see a debt validation letter from the creditor within the 10-day window, or if you receive the validation letter and require additional information.
How to Write a Dispute Letter to Creditor or a Collection Dispute Letter
If you’ve received a debt validation letter from the creditor attempting to collect a debt from you and they still insist that you owe the debt, you may be able to dispute it. Your dispute letter should include the following:
- Your name and contact information
- The date
- The name and contact information of the collection agency
- Your account or file number, if you know it
- The name of the person you are writing to, if you know it
- A list of the charges you’re disputing and the amount of each
- Detailed information as to why you’re disputing each charge
You can also include a copy of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for the creditor’s reference and to also illustrate that you’re aware of your rights and intend on exercising them.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of Debt Collection Harassment
If you attempt to dispute a debt, you can be fairly confident that the creditor is unlikely to work collaboratively with you. You may find yourself in a position where creditors are not only being firm with you but also actively harassing or being abusive towards you. They may call you multiple times a day or at odd hours of the morning or night, or they may call you at work and interrupt your job.
Consumers are protected against unfair debt collection and debt collection harassment or abuse by both state and federal laws. If you have been harassed by a creditor who is in violation of fair debt collection practice guidelines, you may be able to take action against them. This includes potentially suing them for damages you incurred as a result of the harassment, such as if the constant calling at work caused you to lose your job.
How Experienced Unfair Debt Collection Attorneys Mazow | McCullough, PC Can Help
Mazow | McCullough, PC is a seasoned personal injury and consumer protection law firm in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our experienced attorneys understand the challenges consumers are up against when bill collectors come knocking, and we’re here to help.
Contact us to learn more about your consumer rights or to schedule a consultation to discuss what you can do to protect yourself from unfair debt collection and abuse. Call now at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.