Bill Collectors Are Just Doing Their Job
If you owe money on a credit card balance or student loan - you have unsecured debt. When you do not - or cannot make the scheduled payments on these unsecured debts, you will likely receive a letter from a commercial collection agency demanding that you pay your debt.
These bill collectors typically buy your unsecured debt for a fraction of the total amount owed. Sometimes they are allowed to keep a percentage of the amount they successfully collect from you. Like any business, they want to turn a profit so they are likely to try to put as much pressure on you to pay the full amount.
Sometimes they will add additional charges, interest and other fees on top of what you already owe. Even though some debt collection agencies do not have a right to collect a debt, that certainly won't keep them from trying. All bill collectors and commercial collection agencies must comply to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
When a debt collection agency sends a collection letter, they want to collect the money owed. You have several options at this point - one of which is to pay your debt. There are other options in dealing with a collection agency.
Start the process by writing a dispute letter in response to the debt collection letter.
Dealing With the Debt Collection Agency
Your first response to a debt collection letter should be to remain calm. It is just a letter and should not be perceived as a threat or attack.
Next, write a response to their letter asking them to confirm the details of the debt. In many cases, a portion of the debt or the entire debt may be incorrect.
In other cases the additional interest, fees and other charges may be excessive, possibly illegal. You will want to address all of this in your letter of response.
At the very least, you will want the bill collector to verify that they are indeed the legal owner of the debt and that they have the legal right to start the collection process of this debt.
State clearly in your letter that you dispute the unsecured debt - this is your right. You will also want to ask the commercial collection agency to verify the amount of the debt and all details - including added fees, interest or any other additional charges.
Debt Help: Sample Response to a Debt Collection Letter
January 10, 2013
(Your Name Here)
(Your Address Here)
(Name of Commercial Collection Agency)
(Address of Commercial Collection Agency)
Dear (Name of contact person or agency):
This letter is in response to your debt collection letter dated (date of their letter). I dispute the amount of this debt indicated in your letter (copy of letter enclosed).
According to section 809(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, I have the right to ask you to cease collection of this debt until you provide a copy of the verification of this debt, verification of any judgement or the original name and address of the original creditor. I also respectfully request you send documented proof that your commercial collection agency is licensed to collect debts in (name of your state).
I would like you to know that I am aware of rights provided me under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Any violations of my rights will be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and my State Attorney General. I will also retain accurate records of all communication and correspondence from your company, it's employees and representatives.
If you are not the legal owner of this debt, I demand that you make the original creditor aware of this situation and send a copy of this written dispute to them.
(Your First and Last Name Printed)
NOTE: Be sure to keep a copy of ALL correspondence between you and the collection agency.
Debt Solutions: What to Expect Next
It will likely take some time for the commercial collection agency to verify all of this information and send you a response letter.
The purpose of this letter is to make sure everyone is on the same page and above board. It will eliminate any unscrupulous bill collectors from trying to illegally collect a debt. It will also prevent the collection agency from calling you at home or work.
Most collection agencies will stop collection of this debt right away upon receipt of your letter. This letter will also let them know that you are aware of your rights and that they must deal fairly with you.
Also, any added fees, illegal interest or other charges that may have accumulated on your account will likely be eliminated.
The Bottom Line on Debt Collection Agencies
You should always make your scheduled payments on loans, credit cards or money that you borrow. Having said that, you should also know that good people get stuck sometimes and get into a situation where they get behind.
Maybe you have lost a job, or been down-sized. Maybe you have taken advantage of your credit card and just been irresponsible. I'm not here to lecture you about any of that.
Bottom line, you should always pay off the money you borrow - always.
When you do get into trouble with debt, there is still hope. As bad as some bill collectors and collection agencies make the situation sound, there are usually several ways to settle or pay off your unsecured debt.
Another option may be to negotiate a debt settlement or work out a plan for debt consolidation. You can do whatever is necessary to take care of your debt situation without the help of an outside debt consolidation company or attorney of you're just willing to do a bit of homework and learn your rights.
The information in this article is intended for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney, accountant or financial advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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More Info on Dealing with Debt Collectors and Managing Debt...
Prateek Jain from Madhya Pradesh, India on April 02, 2020:
very informative article, you have explained in very easy language. this article covers all the insight regarding debt collection. i gained very useful information from your article. as a banker i have personally carried out this function. hence i advice everyone to pay your dues on time because in case of any default you will have to bear some serious adverse consequences.
Katie Wheat from South Carolina on January 24, 2018:
It should be noted that debt collectors are only required to respond to a validation request if the request is sent within 30 days of the initial communication from the debt collector. If a timely validation request is sent, the debt collector must cease collection activities until the debt is validated. However, the collector can choose to cease collection all together. In that case, he doesn't have to respond to the validation request.
See 1692g(a) and (b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In addition, the FDCPA does not require proof of a license to collect is not required to validate a debt due to the fact that not all states require collection agencies to be licensed.
[V]erification of a debt involves nothing more than the debt collector confirming in writing that the amount being demanded is what the creditor is claiming is owed; the debt collector is not required to keep detailed files of the alleged debt. Chaudhry v. Gallerizzo, 174 F.3d 394, 406 (4th Cir. 1999).
This provision is not intended to give a debtor a detailed accounting of debt to be collected. Maynard v. Cannon, 401 F. App’x 389, 396 (10th Cir. 2010).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms that the verification requirement is satisfied where the debtor "could sufficiently dispute the payment obligation." See Dunham v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 663 F.3d 997, 1004 (8th Cir.2011).
MKayo (author) from Texas on March 08, 2015:
Best of luck to you in your debt situation, Kristen. Thanks for reading and responding! M
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 08, 2015:
Great hub. I'm dealing with a debt collector for now, sine I owe my former landlord rent for carpet damage from my stressed out cats--first my mother passing away last spring and then my moving last fall. We've called them and now I'm paying installments when I can, which might take me 2-3 years. Voted up!
florigo4444 on March 13, 2014:
thank you for the information. I had this problem right with a collection agency and they harass and threaten me. The original credit agency I had the loan for they forward my loan to this agency(collection) and both refuse to send me the amount due and how many payments i am behind. what can I do?
Marie Alana from Ohio on February 10, 2013:
I will have to try this for the company that I have paid their debt to *3.
MKayo (author) from Texas on February 01, 2013:
CZCZCZ - Thanks for the read and comments!
CZCZCZ from Oregon on January 31, 2013:
I enjoyed reading through this helpful information about dealing with creditors calling to collect. These companies and individuals are ruthless and horrible to deal with. This is a great approach to moving toward it getting resolved, with a solid letter.
MKayo (author) from Texas on January 15, 2013:
RW Bobholz - thanks for taking time to read and comment on this article. Such a kind comment coming from an attorney.
Richard Wayne Bobholz from Durham, North Carolina on January 13, 2013:
Excellent article. I'm an attorney who works with Fair Debt Collection on the consumer/debtor side. One thing attorneys can add is if the collector keeps calling, you can hire an attorney and they're no longer allowed to call you after you've notified the collection agency, in writing, of your representation. I've heard some attorneys will do this for as little as $30/month. They then receive the phone calls and forward any negotiations to you.
MKayo (author) from Texas on January 12, 2013:
billybuc - Wow, basically debt free! Great job - hope to be there soon myself. Thanks for the read and compliment! M
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 12, 2013:
Today we are basically debt free, but I have definitely had some experience with debt collectors in the past. Very useful information.