Even if you owe a debt to a private student loan lender or debt collection agency, you still have rights and protections when it comes to dealing with debt collectors, including lawyers hired to collect debts. Debt collectors can’t harass, threaten, or lie to you when collecting on debts. While some debt collectors follow the law, there are unfortunately a lot of bad debt collectors out there that will say anything to get you to pay. Know your rights! Watch the video below for more information about your rights and protections.
Know Your Rights
The most important thing to remember when talking to a debt collector is not to feel rushed. Debt collectors will often say anything to pressure you into paying. And some people who call you to collect on debt are not even legitimate debt collectors. They may be scammers looking to get you to pay money or give them your personal information so they can steal your funds or identity. Don’t give out your personal information, such as your social security number or date of birth to anyone over the phone. Hang up the phone if you are feeling pressured or are worried that you are talking to a scammer.
Keep Notes and Records
When speaking to debt collectors, write down the names, dates, and times of the people you speak with. Keep a file of all letters or documents a debt collector sends you, and keep copies of anything you send to the debt collector.
Get Proof of the Debt
Your debt could be sold or transferred to multiple debt collection agencies without your knowledge, so it’s a good idea to always verify that the debt is legitimate before you agree to make any payments or give any information to a debt collector. Even if you owe a debt, you may not owe it to the company that is contacting you. Debt collectors have to give you proof that you owe the debt in writing if you request it. See the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) website for more help with this and a sample letter to ask the debt collector for proof of your debt.
Stop Collection Calls
Debt collectors must also stop contacting you if you send them a letter asking them to stop. These letters don’t necessarily make the debt go away, and the debt collector may still sue you or sell your debt to another collection agency, but it might stop the collection calls you are getting. See the CFPB’s website for more tips and for a sample letter to ask the collector to stop contacting you.
Has the Statute of Limitations Run Out on Your Debt?
Even if you think you owe the debt, the statute of limitations may have run out on the debt. This means that the debt collector may not be able to sue you because too much time has passed. The statute of limitations varies depending on the state you live in and the type of debt you have. Most statutes of limitations fall between three to six years. In some cases, the statute of limitations can be as short as two years, while in others it can be much longer, such as 10 years or more.
Don’t make payments on old debts without first confirming that the statute of limitations hasn’t expired. If you make a payment on a debt, you could actually extend the time the debt collector has to collect, even if the statute of limitations had previously expired.
Don’t ignore any lawsuits even if the statute of limitations has expired. You may have a default judgment entered against you if you don’t file an answer telling the court that the statute of limitations has expired.
Where Can I Find More Help for Dealing with Debt Collectors?
For more information about dealing with debt collectors, see the CFPB’s website.
If you need more help, contact your local legal aid office to see if they can help you stop collection calls or respond to collection lawsuits.
If you believe you have been harassed by a debt collector, talk to a lawyer or file a complaint with the CFPB or your State Attorney General’s Office.