Since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau started it’s slowly broadened its scope addressing issues with additional financial products. When a consumer runs into financial issues and can’t pay their bills, debt collectors begin their calls. Debts are often sold to third party’s, and collection efforts can be intense. To make sure you are not taken advantage of, the CFPB is empowering consumers with letters you can use to make sure your rights are not violated.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created five action letters that you can use to reply to a debt collector. The letters will help you obtain valuable information about the claims being made, and empower you so the debt collector can’t take advantage of you.
If you need more information on your debt, you should send the CFPB’s first letter. It’s called the “need more information letter.” The letter says you are disputing the charges until the collection agency answers specific questions about the debt.
The second letter is the “dispute and proof” letter. It tells the collector to stop contacting you until they show evidence that you are responsible for the debt. This may be an option for you if you don’t want to talk about the debt until you have information that verifies the debt.
The “contact restriction” letter allows you to tell the collector how you would like to be contacted. Under the law, you can’t get calls about a debt at a time or place that the collector knows is inconvenient.
If you hire a lawyer to help with your case, send the “hired a lawyer” letter. That way all future correspondence is with your legal representation.
The “stop contact” letter tells the collector to stop all communication. That won’t cancel the debt, and could be sued for it. It’s something you might want to use if you feel you are being harassed by the debt collector.
If an issue arises with a debt collector related to any consumer debt, including credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, medical bills, and student loans you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can file for the collector and the company who you originally held the account.
While you may think you would never pay a bill you don’t owe, think again. Debt collectors are threatening and don’t care about your circumstances, so imagine how you would react if one called you demanding payment right after your loved one died. Would you pay it to get them to leave you alone? You might say no now, but given the circumstances your answer might be different.
I will never forget the calls I got after my sister died. One company came after me just because we both had the same cell phone carrier. This company treated me so poorly time and time again all over a bill that was less than $100. It didn’t matter if I faxed over ten death certificates, this business wanted its money. Yet, her student loans that were worth thousands were erased without a fight.
If you don’t know your rights, it’s easy to fall victim to these unrelenting companies at a time when your world feels like it’s in shambles. The debt collectors and/or company itself will try to make you believe that you owe the debt. However, the Federal Trade Commission says you don’t owe the debt unless you co-signed for the financial obligation, living in a community property state like California, you are the deceased person’s spouse and state law requires you pay the debt like health care expenses, or you were responsible to resolve the estate and you didn’t follow state probate laws.
The debts should be paid from the individual’s estate. If there’s not enough money to pay everything off, the debts are left unpaid. In most cases, the survivor doesn’t have to pay the difference even though some companies would like you to think you owe it.
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Stopping debt collectors
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It’s a call that won’t go away for a Northeast Ohio woman. She says debt collectors are calling her for a debt she doesn’t owe. It’s a common problem, and an increasing complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.
Debt collection, in general, is the number one industry complained about to the FTC. Whether you owe the debt or not, you have rights and you need to exercise them so the collector doesn’t take advantage of you.
In the case of Claudia Pilkey, who emailed me at NewsChannel 5, she was getting phone calls for a man who didn’t live at her home. She knows he didn’t formerly live there because she built the home with her husband. The only connection must be the phone number. Pilkey got the unlisted phone number when she moved into her new home.
So, what can she do to stop these calls for a debt she doesn’t owe? Keep a call log of all the calls. Try to get information like who is calling, the name of the company, and a return phone number. You can use that information to find an address for the company. The address is the key to stopping the calls.
Whether you owe the debt or not, you can send a cease and desist letter to the creditor. Tell them to stop calling you. Send the letter certified mail so you know they received it. After the creditor receives the letter, they can’t contact you unless they are calling to tell you they will no longer call you or they are telling you a lawsuit will be filed in court.
If the calls continue, contact the Federal Trade Commission.