It can be overwhelming to get calls and letters that state you owe more money than you can afford to pay.
It’s certainly understandable to feel helpless and it may feel like you have run out of options as the bills mount. However, you do have rights that will allow you to slow the process down and confirm your legal obligations. There are some simple steps to make sure that you are exercising all your legal rights so you can get the situation resolved if you have fallen behind on your payments.
Validate the Company Attempting to Collect the Debt
The next time you receive a collection call or letter, you should have the debt collector provide all the necessary information about their company before agreeing to anything. There are two main options when it comes to legitimate debt collection.
The first is that you are receiving the call or letter from an in-house collection department for the original lender. They would be able to confirm all details of your account, including the original agreement or contract, creation date, loan amounts, and missed payments. You should ask for a debt validation notice from the original lender. It may be in your best interest to explain your situation to the original creditor and attempt to work out a payment plan before they contract a third-party to collect or purchase your debt. The age of the debt certainly applies, and our firm can help you determine whether it is still enforceable.
The second option is that a third-party company has either been contracted to collect your debt or they have purchased it in an effort to collect for profit. In the case of a third-party, you can simply request a complete verification of the debt and their rights to collect it before you can discuss anything further. They must provide this debt validation notice within five days. This simple step can help protect you from debt collection scams and those debts that are no longer valid because of age or previous payments.
Note: You do not have to provide any personal information to a debt collector. They may claim they are simply updating the account information, but you can just insist that all requests be put in writing so that they may be reviewed by your attorney.
Confirm the Records are Accurate
When you are dealing with debt collectors, start with collecting all records of your delinquent accounts. You will want to have records of the total amounts of any debts, as well as last payments made and an accurate history of any missed payments. If you do not have complete records of the debt, you will want to reach out to the original creditor to confirm the amount and that the debt was sold or contracted to a third-party for collection. Errors can easily happen with third-party debt collection because the accounts are often bought in bulk and generally just include a spreadsheet with basic account details. Once you have collected and verified all your account records, our firm can help put together the best debt resolution plan.
Know Your Rights
You have many rights at the federal and state level as a consumer in Colorado when it comes to debt collection. The Federal Trade Commission protects consumers with many key rights in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These include the right to only be contacted between 8 am and 9 pm, and the ability to request that the debt collector stop contacting you with a cease-and-desist letter. The cease-and-desist letter does not mean that you have resolved the debt, and you can still be sued by the creditor or debt collection agency.
Once the debt collector contacts you, they must provide written confirmation of the amount of the debt, the company it is owed to, and the acknowledgement that you have 30 days to dispute the debt or it will be considered valid. You can request the debt validation letter without accepting responsibility for the alleged debt or agreeing to pay back any portion.
The State of Colorado offers consumers further protection against unsavory debt collection practices with the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This provides consumers the additional protection of a four-year statute of limitations on debt collection and the ability to access surety bond funds for consumers that obtain monetary judgments against collection agencies.
At Long & Long P.C., we have more than 30 years of experience with debt resolution and bankruptcy protection in Colorado. Our firm will make sure that you leverage all your legal rights and move forward with the best plan to deal with debt collectors. Call us today at (303) 832-2655 to schedule a free consultation and to take the first steps towards financial security.