When Debt Collectors Come Calling
By: R. Kurtz (Kurt) Holloway and Elizabeth Lester, project intern and contributing author
This is article 10 in a series of articles to help victims of identity theft. The series, which can be found on our Consumer Protection Law page, has addressed different steps in the process of recovering from identity theft such as: documents to file, companies to contact, alerts or freezes to place on your account, blocks or disputes of fraudulent information, protections granted by Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs), and whom to contact when bank or credit cards are missing.
While this series has discussed what to do when you notice errors on your credit report or billing statements or when you are missing bank cards, it is also just as possible that an identity thief may incur debts in your name without you ever realizing it until a debt collection agency contacts you. This article outlines 6 steps to take when debt collection agencies attempt to collect fraudulent debts.
Step 1: Get it in Writing.
In these cases you should demand from the collector a written statement of any money owed and the creditor to whom this debt is owed as well as your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Step 2: Your Response
You must then respond in writing within 30 days disputing the debt, unless it is yours, and should back up your claim with any documents you have detailing suspected identity theft, such as the Identity Theft Report or police report. See Article 4 explaining how to create your Identity Theft Report. The collector, under the FDCPA, must then stop attempting to collect the debt.
Step 3: Termination Letter
If the collector does not cease collection efforts, you can send a letter informing the collector to permanently stop trying to collect the fraudulent debt and to stop contacting you. This, however, does not eliminate the bad debt altogether. It just forces the agency to stop trying to collect the money.
Step 4: CRA Involvement
You can then contact the CRAs to prevent the debt from being transferred to any other collector and should send the CRAs an Identity Theft Report to support your claim.
Step 5: CRA Follow-Up
A CRA is obligated to notify the original creditor as well as the collecting agency that identity theft has occurred.
Step 6: Your Follow-up
You should follow up with the CRAs to ensure that reporting of the fraudulent debt has ceased.
It is also possible that the unrecognized charges for which you are contacted by a debt collector are altogether fake and not a result of identity theft. Instead, these could be part of a scam posed by a fake collecting agency. One way to make sure a debt collector is legitimate is the written validation letter you demand in step 1 above.
You will find more detailed information about resolving your identity theft situation at the FTC website, www.ftc.gov. A knowledgeable consumer protection law attorney can also guide you through the process, help you assert your rights and restore your financial reputation. Contact Kurt Holloway for help at 610-323-7464.