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Tips for dealing with
- Assume that you're being recorded: Say nothing that in any way might acknowledge that you believe the debt is legitimate.
- Promise nothing, pay nothing: It might be tempting to lie to a collector to get them to stop calling, but making a false promise to pay could have dire consequences. Although there is no statute of limitations on debt itself - depending on the type of debt - there are time limits on a collector's ability to take action through the courts. A partial payment, or even entering into a payment agreement, can reset the clock and breathe new life into this kind of zombie debt.
- Ask for details and take notes: The collector could be acting in good faith, and the real problem could be that someone has stolen your identity and amassed debts in your name. You'll never know for sure if you hang up.
- Demand a written notice: Under the FDCPA, collectors must send you information detailing the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a mailing address for consumers who want to dispute the debt in writing.
- Create a paper trail: The FDCPA requires collectors who have received a written dispute to stop all collection efforts until they have provided written verification of the debt. If the calls continue, send a letter demanding the collector cease communications. If the collector keeps calling, it's another FDCPA violation. (The nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse offers good sample letters at privacyrights.org/Debt-Collection.)
- Complain if the calls continue: Contact the FTC, as well as the Missouri or Illinois attorney general's office. Share with regulators copies of the debt-dispute and cease-communication letters you wrote.
- Lawyer up if a collector tries to sue: If you ignore court notices, you risk having a collector garnishee your wages or freeze your accounts. And if you agree to arbitration without talking to a lawyer first, you'll regret it.