Debt collectors are required to collect on debt that is past due and to do so, they have many strategies they use. They will call constantly, send letters, list the debt on your credit report, and they may even file a lawsuit against you. All of these actions are difficult to face when the debt is rightfully yours but, when it is not, it is even worse.
Debt collectors may attempt to collect a debt that is not yours for many reasons. For example, a person may have opened an account in your name and failed to make payments on the debt. Or, the debt may have been sent to a debt collection company by mistake. In rarer cases, dishonest debt collectors might even create fake debts in the hope that consumers will just pay them without investigating. It is important that you always verify that the debt is yours before you pay it, and that you understand the steps to take to prove it is not.
Determine if the Debt Is Yours
You may think that just because you have never seen the name of the debt collector before, or because you do not remember incurring the debt, that it is not yours. This is not always true. Creditors often bundle debts and sell them to someone else for pennies on the dollar, so you can receive notification of the debt from another company. There is also always the chance that you simply forgot about the debt and that you are still responsible for paying for it.
Determine if the Statute of Limitations Has Run Out
When a debt collector continues to try to recover debt, it is always important to determine if the statute of limitations has expired, even if you suspect the debt is not yours. In Florida, the statute of limitations, or time limit, for written contracts is five years. Open-ended accounts, such as credit cards, have a statute of limitations of four years.
If the statute of limitations has expired, you may not want to put the same amount of effort into disputing a debt that is not yours as you would if you owned the debt. However, it is still important to dispute the debt if you cannot verify that it is yours. While debt collectors are not likely to take legal action against you if the statute of limitations has expired, the debt will still remain on your credit report for seven years, which will damage your credit.
Disputing the Debt
Once you have verified that you cannot identify the debt, you need to ask the debt collector for proof that the debt is yours. After you have made this request in writing, the debt collector is required to stop contacting you in an attempt to collect the debt. You cannot be contacted by the credit bureau, or receive any phone calls or letters until the debt collector has proven that the debt is yours and that they have the right to collect it.
When working with a debt defense lawyer, they will send a debt validation letter to the debt collector asking them to prove that the debt is yours. A lawyer will also send the letter through certified mail so there is proof of the date the letter was sent and the date the debt collector received it.
Get Copies of Your Credit Report
It is bad enough when your credit is damaged due to debt you actually incurred. Facing the consequences of bad credit for a debt that is not rightfully yours is unacceptable. If you dispute a debt and the debt collector cannot prove that it is yours, it is imperative that you get copies of your credit report to ensure the debt has been taken off your report.
Many people only obtain their credit report from one credit reporting bureau, thinking that they are all the same. Unfortunately, they are not. Some debt collectors will report a debt to one or two credit reporting bureaus, while others will report debt to all three major bureaus. To ensure the debt will not damage your credit, obtain a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
If, after receiving your credit report, you find that the debt is still appearing on your report, send a letter to the bureaus reporting the debt. State within the letter that the debt does not belong to you and provide any evidence that supports your argument.
Holding Debt Collectors Accountable
Debt collectors are required to follow specific guidelines and laws when trying to collect on a debt. If you have taken the appropriate steps to dispute a debt and the collector has not stopped harassing you or, worse, has taken legal action against you, it is important to speak with a debt defense lawyer who can help.
You may be able to take legal action against debt collectors who do not comply with the law by filing a lawsuit against them. A lawyer can determine if you have a valid lawsuit and will assist with any important court filings. If a debt collector has tried to sue you, it is especially crucial that you speak with a lawyer. Simply appearing in court and stating that the debt is not yours is, unfortunately, not enough. A lawyer will provide the best legal defense possible and present evidence to strengthen your case.
Call Our Florida Debt Defense Lawyers Today
If you are being harassed by debt collectors or legal action has been taken against you, it is important to speak to a Fort Lauderdale debt defense lawyer, even if you do not think the debt is yours. Ignoring it will not make it go away, and debt will do severe damage to your credit over time. At Loan Lawyers, our Fort Lauderdale debt defense attorneys can advise on your case, help you prove a debt is not yours, and prepare a strong defense when it is. Call us today at (954) 807-1361 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation and find out more about our money back guarantee on credit card debt buyer lawsuits, and how we may be able to help you.