Sometime during your lifetime, this may have happened to you. Either you have lost your job or you have suffered an illness that made it impossible for you to keep up with your bills. Or you simply amassed too much debt and you suddenly found yourself unable to make the required payments. Most people fail to realise that there are ways to legitimately avoid paying your creditors if a collection agency is trying to collect what you owe. Read on if those thing have happen to you.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Have the collection agency prove to you that it has been given the right to collect what you owe a particular creditor. Send them a so-called "debt validation letter" by registered mail, a right granted you by the "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act" (FDCPA). This method is not meant for those creditors that you owe, but the collection agencies they have hired to pursue the debt. If those collection agencies cannot prove they have the legal right, you do not have to pay them. Also, since you have disputed their claim, they cannot pursue it until it is resolved.
Use another strategy if the collection agency can prove that it is acting legally on behalf of the creditor. Send them another letter that asks them for a copy of the original papers you signed that created the contract or debt in the first place. Furthermore, you should request them to provide you with a breakdown of the amount you owe, including the interest and the fees that have been added to it. If those collection agencies do not provide you with that information, according to the FDCPA, the claim against you is considered invalid and they can have no further contact with you.
Look for a creditor to sue you if it has complied with these requests, although this action will depend on how much you owe. They will file a sworn affidavit that you owe the money, and you should dispute it by simply denying that you owe the money in a notarised letter submitted to the court. That will make the credit agency provide a witness in court to give testimony about the debt. In the majority of cases, this is unlikely to happen and the case will be dropped.
Show up in court if the creditor has complied with all your requests. In the majority of cases, no defendant (you) will do so, and a summary judgment will be issued. If they do appear in court, ask the judge for a continuance so you can gather additional information. This delaying tactic may result in the creditor backing away from the case since it would involve more expense.
If a case is decided in favour of the plaintiff, immediately appeal if you deem the judgment unfair. Such an appeal can take several months to find its way through the legal system, but the collection agency will be precluded from pursuing you or any garnishments.
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