By: Andrew Marchant
Earlier Blogs on this site have discussed some of the basics regarding your rights against debt collectors. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a law that applies to all 50 states, allows you to make certain requests/demands to the debt collector. The law also requires the debt collector comply with certain of those requests. Some requests you can make include: that a debt collector reduce or stop contact with you; that the debt collector limit methods, times and locations of contact with you; and that the debt collector verify the debt. You also have the right to dispute the debt. All of these requests have one major thing in common – they must be in writing.
In this blog we take a look into basic mechanics of making written requests to the debt collector.
All letters can be fairly straight forward, and some information should be in almost every request letter you send to the debt collector:
- Identify your name and your address. This can just be in the top left corner of the letter – similar to what you would find in most letters you’ve sent to businesses (or in letters you’ve received from businesses). Be sure you date the letter. This helps you prove when you sent the letter out, and roughly when the debt collector should have received the letter.
- Include information about your debt. Things like the account number (if available) and any information the debt collector gave you about the debt should be included. This will help the debt collector correctly identify the debt collection matter.
- If you can, sign your name at the bottom of the letter, which helps to prove you actually intended to make the request and that it was you who actually made the request.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a great website with examples of “action letters” that you can download and personalize. These “action letters” contain form language for things like disputing the amount of the debt, requesting information on the original creditor, and restrictions on the ways the debt collector can contact you.
If you do not choose to use the samples form the CFPB website, always be sure you are direct in what you are requesting of the debt collector. Also be clear with the request. For example, if you are requesting that you only be contacted via mail, be sure you give an accurate address. Or if you are telling the debt collector what times they can call you, be sure you note whether the hours are A.M. or P.M. Specifically, with letters requesting information about the debt, at a minimum be sure to ask (1) Why the debt collector thinks you owe the debt, and to whom it is owed; (2) How much was the original debt, how much is owed now, and why there is any difference in the two amounts; (3) Details about the debt collector’s authority to collect the debt.
For all letters you send, make a copy of the letter for your records if possible. That way, if the debt collector violates your request, you can easily reference the letter if you need to. Also, that letter could be used as evidence against the debt collector in the event you end up in court with the debt collector over its violation of your request (and by extension its violation of the law).
If you are sure to be direct, clear, and accurate in your letter the debt collector is bound by law to honor certain requests. If the debt collector does not, he can be liable to you and to the government.