If you have past-due medical bills, piles of credit card debt, or owe the furnace guy for a repair he made last winter, you may not be surprised to get a call from a debt collection agency. Companies often contract out collection of past-due payments because they don’t have the resources to keep requesting payment from a delinquent customer. However, you may be contacted by a debt collector when you don’t think you owe anybody. This may be a legitimate call, or it may not.
Why a Debt Collector May Call
The most obvious reason a debt collector calls is because they believe you owe money. The first time a debt collector calls, you should hear him out to make sure it is not, in fact, a debt you owe. Never provide the caller with any personal information; if it is a legitimate call, he will have the information he needs. Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and phone number, and then request a written validation notice. If he is unable to provide this information, he may not be a legitimate debt collector. Other reasons you may be contacted by a debt collection agency include the following:
To locate a friend or family member. If a debt collector is trying to track down someone you may know, they may call you one time—any more than this is considered harassment and is illegal—but may not reveal that the person owes a debt. You are under no obligation to reveal any information and the collector may not call you again.
Your debt has been sold. Debt buyers are companies that purchase debt from creditors and then attempt to collect on it. You may be contacted by one of these companies. You should not give the caller any personal information and should request a validation notice. You cannot be sued for old debt, so it is important to ask for transaction dates.
You are being scammed. Criminals often randomly call people claiming to be a collection agency and accusing them of owing money in an attempt to get a credit card number or cash transfer. Never give information over the phone and always ask them to verify their identity.
There are strict laws in place that prohibit debt collectors from harassing people by phone or in person. If you believe you are being harassed by a debt collection agency, contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C. for assistance. Once you have hired a lawyer, the debt collector will be required by law to only communicate with your attorney.