Nobody likes owing other people money. But what makes this problem worse is when the debt collectors bother you night and day and ruin your life. Can you think of anything more annoying? Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to put a leash and muzzle on those pesky creditors.
The first weapon in your arsenal to shut those bill collectors down is a little section of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This is one of several federal laws that stack the odds in your favor. This particular statute mandates how debt collectors are allowed to behave. There is language in Section 809 of that law that spells out your rights to challenge a debt. One powerful way to do that is to request “validation”.
What is Validation?
Validation is written notice you send to the debt collector demanding they “validate” the debt they are trying to collect. In order to validate the debt, the collector has to provide you with proof you owe the amount they are trying to collect. Until they do, they have to stay in their cage.
The only thing you have to be careful about is timing. You have to request “validation” within 30 days from the time you are first given written notice about the demand for payment. If you don’t comply with that requirement, the collector can continue to hound you.
Of course you can dispute a debt anytime. But if you don’t send your demand for validation within that 30 day window, you won’t get the benefits the law provides.
How Your Timely Validation Request Protects You
As I mentioned above, the law (FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)) stipulates that once you make a written request for debt validation the debt collector can’t continue trying to collect the money until they comply with your request. That shuts them down for a while. It also shows them you mean business, you understand the law and you are going to use every means at your disposal to protect yourself.
The act stipulates that even if you don’t request validation – the collector has to leave you alone for the first 30 days after they first contact you.
Who Is Subject To This Law?
If someone, including an attorney, collects consumer debts on an ongoing basis, they are considered debt collectors and therefore they are subject to these regulations. That’s good news for the most part. But it does mean that the original creditor isn’t subject to these rules. However, all is not lost. Many states have laws which protect you from vendors who try to collect debts too aggressively.
What Other Tools Are Available To Shut Down Debt Collectors?
In addition to the protection outlined above, the FCCB lays out guidelines for what a debt collector can and cannot do. But in my opinion there is one guideline that could very powerful for you.
This is the prohibition against contacting you after they receive written notice from you demanding that they stop. In other words, if you write and tell them to leave you alone, they have to do so. The only exception is if they decide to file a lawsuit against you. In that case, they must contact you. But other than that, they have to go bother someone else if you tell them to.
What Happens If The Debt Collector Doesn’t Comply With The Law?
Both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the FTC enforce this law. You should file a complaint with both these agencies if your door in darkened by a debt collector who doesn’t play by the rules. In addition, you can file a lawsuit. If you win, you’ll get damages and costs. And you don’t even have to file the lawsuit in order to get relief. Some people hire an attorney inexpensively to send a letter or two to the collector threatening a suit and that alone is enough to do the trick.
If a debt collector comes after you it’s important to know your rights. Just because you owe money doesn’t mean anyone has the right to mistreat you. The laws protect you against predators. All you have to do is understand them and make sure to use them when applicable.