Debt Collectors, they seem to be everywhere and getting more aggressive, abusive, and irritating every single day. Some of the worst are collection agencies who probably only paid 25 cents (or less) on the dollar for your account. They don’t feel the need to operate within Fair Debt Collection Practices and often use intimidation to make a buck.
It’s true that debt collectors of all kinds can be scary but that’s true ONLY if you don’t know your rights. So, rather than being nervous every time the phone rings, we’re going to help you bone up on some debt collection facts, especially involving something called a Debt Validation Letter (DVL) aka Proof of Debt (POD) in some types of businesses. According to The Penny Hoarder, the fact is that the law requires debt collectors to send you a DVL/POD if you request it. The letter has to include the amount you owe, who you’re owing it to, and what actions you are able take.
What Exactly is a Debt Collector Anyway?
According to the PennyHoarder, debt collectors is not a term used for describing bank or credit card company employees who initially gave you a loan or extended you credit. The terminology “debt collector” actually refers to individuals working for third-party companies that collect debts that are owed to other creditors. The majority of financial institutions generally have their own internal collectors who generally try working with debtors or borrowers when they have become past due fairly recently. It’s their main goal to assist you in getting current quickly. However, when that fails, your debt may be transferred or sold to a third-party collector.
What is a DVL/POD Exactly?
According to the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it’s a legal document that federal law says, at a consumer’s request, must be produced. Any debt collector who contacts you must first identify themselves and proceed by validating the amount of the debt. This law was enacted for the purpose of providing legal protection to consumers to protect them from debt collection practices that are simply abusive. It requires a POD/DVL as an integral part of a 30-day timeline.
1. Don’t fear that ringing phone
Sure, calls from debt collectors can be frightening and that’s because they’re trained to do whatever they can for successfully convincing you to pay off that debt as fast as you possibly can. What if you’re not even sure if you owe that debt or the call is just a scam? Well, the fact is that you’re not alone in your bewilderment. According to the FTC, complaints about debt collectors occupied the # two spot on their 2018 consumer complaints list and they actually topped that list over the previous three years. So, answer the call (or return it if they leave a message), making sure that you are armed with your new-found knowledge. Ask the caller right from the start for what is your legal right. Tell them to immediately mail you a DVL/POD.
Did you know that debt collection practices that are abusive (and even illegal) contribute annually to the total number of job losses, invasion of individual privacy cases, bankruptcies, and even marital instability? According to the FTC, which is reponsible for enforcing the FDCPA, the number one complaint regarding debt collectors is that they’re often guilty of trying to collect more than a consumer really owes.
2. Know How to Ask
According to Dummies.com, there are a few important tips when it comes to asking for your DVL/POD:
- Always submit your request for verification in writing.
- Be sure to ask the debt collector to send the response back to you also in writing.
- Ask the debt collector to be sure to verify:
- The original amount,
- Any interest,
- Any late fees,
- Any collection fees.
- Ask for a complete itemization of each and every amount rather than just the total amount as a lump sum.
Be sure that you have made a copy of the letter you send for your files, Also, be sure to send your request for a POD/DVL by certified mail and request a return receipt. That’s because you want to know exactly when your letter was received. In the event that the debt collector fails to respond with the necessary verification, you’ll have positive proof that they are in violation of the FDCPA. It’s also important to be aware of the fact that certain states put limits on what kind of debt-related expenses you can be charged. Check to see if your state has limits by checking the state government website, contacting the state attorney general’s office in your state, or consulting a consumer law attorney.
In addition, the agreement that you signed with the original creditor could also limit any fees you can be charged. In the event that you don’t have a copy of that agreement, demand a copy from the debt collector. Contact a consumer law attorney if that debt collector doesn’t respond to the request or simply admits to not having a copy of the agreement either.
Don’t Get Scammed
Scammers may try pressuring you into paying them via prepaid card or money transfer. Why? Well, because those payment methods can be virtually untraceable. Scammers may try any number of scare tactics as well, including:
- A. Threatening you with police action, (which is highly illegal). Sometimes they’ll say things like, “If you don’t make payment right now over the phone, the local police will be at your front door in an hour.” This is, after all, the United States and we have no debtor’s prisons like they did in medieval times
- B. Threatening to charge you three times the amount of the debt. Some debt collectors, especially those collecting for payday loans, may try to tell you they can do this but they can’t.
- C. Threatening bodily harm (also highly illegal but not unheard of in the debt collection business).
So, now that you know a little something about handling debt collectors and not being intimidated by them, you can rest a little easier. Don’t let them get away with trying to collect from you without proper proof that you even owe the debt in the first place.