Protect Yourself From Dishonest Bill Collectors
Have you ever received a bill and been certain that you do not owe the requested amount? Perhaps you have never even heard of the company that sent you're the bill. You may be absolutely sure that you never made the purchase or used the service for which you are being billed. If so, you are not alone. According to a 2010 Federal Trade Commission report, they received 119,364 complaints about bill collectors in 2009, and the number of complaints continues to rise. Although there are many reasons why people may complain about bill collectors, a common reason is because the consumer doesn't owe the debt, despite the harassing letters and phone calls!Credit: www.morguefile.com
Why You May Be Getting Those Calls
One reason why you may be contacted over a false debt is mistaken identity. You may have a similar name to someone else, or even their old phone number. Now, the collection agencies are calling you to collect the debt, even though they have the wrong person. Correcting these cases of mistaken identity can take months of correspondence with the various bill collectors and credit reporting bureaus.
Fraud can also cause you to be hounded by debt collectors. Someone may have intentionally made you the victim of identity theft. They may have been busily opening up lines of credit, or making purchases, and now the bill collectors are coming after you. This will require you to contact the credit card companies or lenders and prove that you are not the person who has been using your identity. This, again, can be tricky and require months of correspondence.
Another reason why you may be getting calls and letters from a bill collector is called Zombie Debt. That is when you have paid off a debt years ago, but it wasn't recorded as paid. Or, it may be a debt that you once owed, and it was dismissed through bankruptcy or mediation with the lender. It may have been part of an old debt consolidation or debt settlement. Perhaps, it is a very old unpaid bill, but the statute of limitations has expired, the debt has been written off, and the obligation in no longer enforceable. Whatever the situation, a bill collector is suddenly trying to get you to pay it, even though you are no longer legally responsible for it. These debt problems can create a real headache for the average consumer.
These types of problems can have a negative affect on your credit, too. If that happens to you, you may need to use this Amazon link to get the book: "How to Remove All Negative Items From Your Credit Report." This book will help you learn how you can clear up your credit when you have been harmed by unscrupulous debt collectors.
How to Handle Credit Problems over Debt You Don't Owe
If you find yourself in any of the above situations, there are several steps which you will need to take in order to correct the situation and protect your credit rating. The quicker you begin to take action, the less damage will be done to your credit.
The first thing you should do is ask the bill collector to send you proof of the debt. You need to know exactly what debt they say you owe, when you supposedly incurred the debt, and who they say you originally owed. You need to look over this information carefully to be certain this is not a debt that you are responsible for.
Once you confirm that you are correct, and you do not owe the debt, write and tell them so. Send the letter to the collection agency by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself, along with the return receipt.
In addition, you should also write a letter to the company that originally informed the collection agency that you owe the debt. In other words, if the collection agency says that you bought a big screen TV from a department store, you should write both the collection agency and the department store explaining that you never made this purchase. If it happened at a store where you have never shopped, tell them that, as well.
Once you have responded to the attempts to collect the debt, tell the collection agency to stop contacting you. Federal law required debt collection companies to cease contacting you if you tell them to stop. Follow up the conversation with a certified letter. Keep a copy of the letter and the return receipt.
If the debt collector continues to contact you, report them to the FTC. If you continue to have problems, you may want to contact a lawyer. If you have filed bankruptcy in the past, you may want to start by contacting the lawyer you used in the bankruptcy.
Finally, request your credit reports annually from annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to a free credit report from Experian, Equifax and Transunion once a year. If you spread them out, it means you can get one every four months. Read your reports carefully to make certain that there are no unusual items listed on the reports. If there are, contact the companies that made the report as quickly as possible. Don't wait until these items have been turned over to a collection agency!
Don't let unscrupulous collection agencies trick you into paying debt you don't owe. Know your rights, and take steps to protect yourself.
To read more about ways to protect yourself financially, you may also want to read:
This Helpful Book Can Walk You Through the Process of Fixing Your Credit
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