Saturday, August 06, 2005

Stopping Collection of a Disputed Debt

Question: How do I stop a collection company from pursuing the collection of a ficticious debt? When requested to verification of the debt but they did not and cannot provide support for the claim amount, but are still threatening to report it on my credit reports if I do not pay. The Creditor is in California, the collection agency is in Philadelphia.

Answer: If this is a consumer debt, you are protecting by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The FDCPA that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection. The FDCPA covers perrsonal, family, and household debts. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts. In some areas of the country, the FDCPA can even apply to the collection of deliquent homeowner's association dues.

You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Please note, however, that sending such a letter to a collector does not make the debt go away if you actually owe it. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor.

Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered plus an additional amount up to $1,000. Court costs and attorney' s fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector' s net worth, whichever is less.

The information provided in this article is general information only and is not intended as legal advice. DO NOT use this information as a substitute for obtaining qualified legal advice or other professional help.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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