Three Important Steps to Protect Yourself from Debt Collectors

The phone rings and you nearly jump out of your skin.  You know its the debt collection company calling again about some debt you racked up years ago. You have a family to support now.  And rent or a mortgage to pay.  And a car payment.  And you have to eat.  You just don’t have enough money to pay off that debt, but the debt collector doesn’t care.  The debt collection company WANTS. ITS. MONEY. NOW.  You panic and ignore the call, but you know they will call again tomorrow.  Is there anything that you can do to make it stop?  YES.  Let me spell it out for you:  Y.E.S.  Get ready to tell the debt collector BYE BYE BYE (BYE BYE).  (OK sorry that last line took it too far.  #FanGirl #StillTheBestBoyBandEver).

Here are three important steps that you can take to protect yourself from a harassing or dishonest debt collector:

  1. Track all calls from your debt collector.  You can click here to download a free call log.  Make sure to notate the date, time, name of the caller (if you know) and company, and the details of the call (i.e. you asked who was calling and they hung up, etc.).  Keep this log going for as long as you can.  It will serve as excellent evidence in the future if the need arises.
  2. Request validation of the debt.  Send a letter to the debt collector specifically asking them to send you proof, or validation, of the debt that they are trying to collect.  Federal law grants you, the consumer, the right to request validation.
  3. Send a cease and desist notice.  Now, this one is a little trickier.  You have to wait until AFTER you have received your validation before you can request a cease and desist.  If you send the cease and desist notice first, the debt collector may be prohibited from sending the validation that you previously requested.  If you have not received a response to your validation request within 30-45 days (MARK IT ON YOUR CALENDAR), it is safe to send out your cease and desist.  Once you send out a cease and desist, the debt collector is prohibited from contacting you.  KEEP YOUR CALL LOG FROM STEP ONE.  Also keep any e-mails, faxes, and/or letters that you receive before and after the cease and desist notice.  All of this will serve as evidence should the need arise.

If these steps intimidate you, or if you have a debt collector that is totally oblivious to the law and fails to comply with your demands, CONTACT A LICENSED ATTORNEY that is familiar with consumer law.  Like me.  (Shameless plug.  Get used to it, folks).  In all seriousness, it is better to speak with an attorney and get your problem resolved.  Let the attorney worry about dealing with the debt collector so you can worry about the more important things in your life.

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does this article purport to give legal advice.  Everyone’s situation is different.  If you have legal questions, you should contact a licensed attorney.  Written by Shera E. Anderson, Esq. in Sunrise, Florida.

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