• Don’t be an ostrich! Burying you head in the sand by not answering the phone or avoiding contact in the hope that the debt collector will go away leads to worse problems - like a lawsuit.


  • You need to know a little about the debt collection business and your legal rights in order to effectively deal with them. I will discuss the business and your rights if a collector calls in the following points. 


  • Collectors are either paid a percentage of what they collect by the creditor that you owe money to or the debt collection company that bought the debt. Then anything they make over the price they paid for the debt, including the cost of running the business, is profit. (Usually they pay pennies on the dollar for the debt, depending on how old it is. The older it is, and the number of other collectors the debt has been through, the cheaper it is to buy. The older the debt, the likelier it is that the collector will agree to a significantly reduced amount if the payments are in a lump sum or in installments over a three – 6 month period. (My advice is if the debt is three or more years old offer 20% of the amount claimed) 


  • Once you get a call, know this, they want your money. So you need to know if you have to pay them or not. Because if they are trying to collect on a debt that is not yours, or that is so old that the statute of limitations has expired, then you do not have to pay the debt off. If that is the case, their attempt to collect may be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), which provides a recovery of any damages you suffer, a penalty of up to $1000 for the violations, and legal fees.


  • The collector will try to get as much money from you as he can get you to agree to.  If you do not owe the money or the debt is so old that the statute of limitations has run, then do NOT pay a dime.  If you do agree to pay something on a debt that the statute of limitations has run then some courts will treat this as renewing the debt.


  • In Virginia, while the law is not totally clear, a reasonable rule of thumb is that the stature of limitation on a contract for which you did not sign, such as a credit card sent to you in the mail that you just started using, is three (3) years from the date you first defaulted. That means the creditor or collector has to sue your within three years of that date, assuming you did not make any more payments.  On a written contract its five (5) years from the date of default.


  • Once you get a call, the collector must send you a letter within 5 days that informs you of the amount owed and your right to demand within 30 days of the letter, in writing, that the collection company validate the debt.  If you dispute that you owe the money or the amount, then the collector must send you something in writing that indicates the debt is valid, and if requested in writing within this 30 day period, the name of the original creditor.


  • If you want no further contact with the collector, write (not call or email) a letter demanding that is cease all further communications with you. Send it certified mail. If they contact you about the debt after receiving your cease and desist letter, they have violated the FDCPA.


  • The debt collector may call a third party ask for location information for you, but it cannot disclose the call is about a debt. Nor can it curse, harass, or intimidate you, or threaten of litigation it does not intend to take.  Nor may it make false statements to you about the amount, character, legal status of the debt, that it is an attorney if it is not, the threat of imprisonment, or make any deceptive attempts at collecting the debt.


  •  If you get a call save any recordings on you have so you can prove what the collector said to you.


  • Never admit you owe the money.


  • Get the name and address of the collector he is calling for so you can write them if you need to.


  • Never give the collector any bank account number of information since they may take money from it you. Do not authorize this and claim you did not. 


  • If you advise the collector, either verbally or in writing, that you dispute the debt within 30 days of their first contact to you, then they cannot make any further efforts to collect until they verify the debt in writing to you.


  • Save any letter, email, text or recording either to you or from you.  These can be golden when the collector claims it did not say the things you tell us it said that violate the law.


  • If you continue to be harassed or have questions give us a call. 804-282-7900
John Cole Gayle, Jr.
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Consumer Law Pioneer and Co-Author of Virginia's Lemon Law