Timing in debt collection is everything. I cannot emphasize the importance of timing and being proactive when you are contacted by a debt collector. Too often, I receive frantic calls or emails from people days before they have to appear in court pursuant to a court summons in a debt collection case. In each instance, I ask them why they did not contact me sooner. In almost every instance, these people had been lulled into a false sense of security either from court employees, attorneys representing the party suing them, or the suing party. Usually, these people tell the party being sued, “not to worry”, “this situation can be worked out or settled on the day of the court hearing”. Most people just want to settle the case and move on with their lives or they are in denial about the seriousness of the matter. Therefore, they don’t give the situation the attention it requires. They naively believe that they can come to court the day of the hearing and just work something out with the suing party. Or they believe that the other side always plays fair and they are being sued on a debt that they can make go away by agreeing to pay what they believe they owe. The problem is in many cases, by the time that a debt collection case gets to court, the original debt is far less than the sued upon amount. The lawsuit implies that there is a legitimate original debt that belongs to the person being sued, whereas in many cases, there isn’t.
Minimizing liability and settling a case amicably is always the ultimate goal in a pending lawsuit. Timing is key. If you are not proactive early on in the process, you are almost always in a lesser bargaining position. If a debt collector contacts you about an old debt, never agree to make a payment. Ask specific questions about the debt. Ask for verification of the debt. Send a written request to the debt collector within 30 days of being contacted by the debt collector asking for:
1. Proof of the debt
2. Name and address of original creditor
3. Original account number
4. Debt collector license number and registered agent information confirming that
it is licensed to collect in your jurisdiction
5. Include your name, address, and date
Keep a copy of the debt verification request and send it via certified mail with return receipt requested. The debt collector is not legally allowed to collect any payments from you on the debt nor is the debt collector allowed to call you, send you letters, or list the debt on your credit report until this requested information is sent to you. Remember, you must make the verification request in writing, within the first 30 days of being contacted by the debt collector. The debt collector isn’t legally required to comply with requests made outside these requirements. If you have any issues regarding the validity of the debt, or if it is debt that is years old, never just agree to pay or settle. Don’t wait. Don’t make a payment. Time is ticking away and what started out as a minor issue could snowball into a debt collection lawsuit. Call me for a free initial consultation. It will cost you nothing to contact me and may result in saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the end.