If you owe a debt, pay it.
If you don't owe it, fight back.
That's my advice when it comes to debt collectors bugging you.
Most are legitimate and just doing their job.
Others are scammers trying to get your money for nothing.
So, how do you know?
You've got rights.
I asked the Arizona Collector's Association for help. It's a group made up of debt collectors who follow certain guidelines.
They say this:
- Communication is key. Do not ignore the calls and letters if you think you do not owe it. A request in writing to the debt collector for who you owe, why you owe, and how much you owe will be honored by legitimate collectors. Also, if you do owe the account, talk with the collector about options (payments available, charity reductions if any, reduced lump sum payments or settlements are sometimes options).
- Once collectors have correctly identified the consumer, they must indicate that they are in fact a debt collector and the call is for that purpose. A legitimate debt collector will have no problem telling you what the balance is and who the bill is owed to.
- Collectors cannot call before 8am or after 9pm in the consumer's local time or at a time and place known to be inconvenient (ie calling a waitress at work at 12:15pm)
- They must cease and desist attempts after a written request is received.
- A written request to cease communication should be honored by legitimate debt collectors. but it doesn't stop the process. If the collector believes you are the consumer for the account, they would have the option of attaching the record to your credit bureau or even filing suit. That is why communication is key. If you are not the correct party, communicating (and proving that fact early) will save a lot of headache down the road. If it is your account, communicating a willingness to resolve the account might prevent creditors/collectors from feeling like they have to take those drastic measures.
- Written requests for verification within the first 30 days must be honored (*meaning someone who writes in asking for the information on whom, what and why they owe will be honored by legitimate collectors). Additionally, most legitimate collectors will honor a request for verification well after the initial 30 days as well.
If you have any problems with collectors, contact the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Arizona Attorney General's office.
Find more debt collector information by clicking here.
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Need my help? Call the Assistance League of Phoenix volunteers at 1-855-323-1515. You can also send me an email, or a video email where you attach a video explaining the problem.
And you can reach me on twitter or "like" the Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there.
AND WE NEED YOUR HELP! If you want to be a volunteer and help other consumers, let me know.