When a creditor sells a debt to a collection agency, it provides the company with the amount owed and all of the personal information it currently has on the debtor. The collection agency then uses that personal information, however limited, to try to track the debtor down. If a Social Security number has been recorded incorrectly or you are unfortunate enough to have the same name as the debtor, you may be harassed by debt collectors for a debt you do not owe. Should this occur, you may seek legal action against the collection agency.
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Document any illegal tactics used by debt collectors who contact you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that a debt collector may not threaten you or your personal property, may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and may not call repeatedly with the intent to harass you.
Request in writing that the collection agency provide you with proof of the debt. This is important because you will need to establish a paper trail that proves the collection agency was aware the debt did not belong to you, yet continued to attempt to collect the debt.
Review the information the collection agency sends to you to learn what information has caused the collection agency to pursue you in error. The agency is required to provide you with the amount of the debt, the name of the original creditor and any identifying information proving the debt is yours.
Provide the collection agency with documentation proving the debt is not yours.
If debt collectors continue to harass you, visit your local county clerk's office and fill out a "Statement of Claim." This is the document that will initiate your lawsuit. To file the statement, you will need the name and address of the collection agency and an explanation of why you are filing the lawsuit. You also will need to pay a filing fee.
Authorise the court to deliver the Statement of Claim along with a summons to appear in court to the collection agency. This is normally done via certified mail and you will be required to pay a delivery fee.
Attend the pretrial hearing. A representative for the collection agency is required to appear and present a defence. Should no representative attend the hearing, you will win your lawsuit by default.
Attend the trial. Bring any documentation you have that the debt does not belong to you and that the collection agency was notified of this fact yet continued to pursue you for the debt. If the collection agency has used illegal collection tactics against you while attempting to collect the debt, you may also point this out to the judge.
Tips and warnings
- You must file a lawsuit against any debt collector within one year of the violation for which you wish to sue.
- You may request that, in the event you win the case, the collection agency be required to pay your attorney fees.
- Send all correspondence to the collection agency via certified mail with a signature card. This will allow you to prove in court that your letters were received.
- Never put your signature on any letters you send to a collection agency, lest your signature end up on documents you did not sign.
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