It is against the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for a debt collector to make false or misleading representations. For example, a debt collector cannot claim to be an attorney or that a communication is from an attorney plus they cannot threaten legal action they have no intention of taking just to get you to pay.
Question: So I have received a call and voicemail from an apparent paralegal saying they have received a civil complaint that has my name and social security number that’s prepared to be forwarded over to my county clerk’s office within the next 48 hours to be processed to have me served. They left a phone number to call back within the 48 hours to discuss the matter or it will be processed. I have not received any letters from this firm with an address to respond to by mail. Only this phone call. How would I go about getting them to send validation without having to call? I’ve looked up the apparent firm on the internet and could not locate any information.
Answer: (Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and suggest you seek legal advice immediately.)
I can imagine receiving such a phone call is alarming. But here are a few things to take into consideration:
- When a reputable debt collection law firm intends to sue someone they generally send a “Letter of Intent to Sue” before filing a lawsuit.
- Law firms typically do not file legal actions without ever sending ANY correspondence prior to filing a case.
- With a reputable law firm you would not have to search the Internet for the firm name, address and telephone.
- The FDCPA says within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector must send the consumer a written notice of the debt. The written notice should contain the amount of debt, name of original creditor and a notice that you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt and request verification.
I could be wrong but it sounds like you are dealing with a debt collector who never plans on taking legal action. They strictly want to deal with you on the phone. They want a quick turnaround and easy prey.
Here are a few steps you can take:
- Request information. I know you don’t want to get on the phone but you may have too. Ask for the name of the company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.” The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Don’t confirm your personal information. Don’t give or confirm any of your financial or other sensitive information. This could be a fake debt collector trying to use information to commit identity theft by getting your bank account numbers, credit or debit card information. There is no law requiring you to verify your social security number, not even the last 4-digits to a business.
- Do a Google search of the caller’s phone number.Your search will likely reveal other consumers who have received the same type of phone call warning them of legal action within “48 hours.” There are websites devoted to discussions about collectors like www.debtorboards.com that have good information on most debt collectors.
- Call the original creditor. The original creditor should be able to tell you which company it has hired to collect your debt, or which company has purchased it.
- Debt collectors can’t threaten to sue just to get you to pay. Debt collectors may tell you they’re going to take you to court when they have no intention of doing so. They may threaten to garnish your wages, seize your property, or even have you arrested. The truth is, third party collectors are often breaking the law by making such threats. Make no mistake: they can file a lawsuit to collect the debt you owe, but if they don’t intend to take legal action, they can’t tell you that you’ll be sued.
- Posing as an attorney or other legal figure is not allowed. Debt collectors can’t lie or misrepresent themselves when trying to collect a debt. This means they can’t falsely claim they’re attorneys and they can’t send you letters or other documents printed on stationery that appears to be from a law firm. It may be time to turn the tables on them and call an attorney to seek legal action against them.
- Debt Collection Lawsuit. If you are sued by a debt collector there is a good chance you can win by simply responding. When a consumer responds to a debt collection lawsuit it means the debt collector has to spend time and money which is not their goal. Consumers have many defenses to these type of lawsuits including the debt collector can’t prove it even owns the debt.