Debt Column


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When Debt Collectors Violate the FDCPA

DebtAs we learned in this classic abusive debt collection story, and Craig’s awesome response, debt collectors are often unfamiliar with the law. Not only are they unfamiliar with it, they routine violate it… which means you get to collect from them.

Want an example? Let’s say you call a collector to check on the status of your dispute. They decide to solicit payment from you… that collector has just violated the FDCPA and they now owe you at least $1,000.

Oh… it gets better.

(click here to continue reading…)

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A Classic Debt Collection Story

Last week I asked email newsletter subscribers for their experiences with debt collection agencies. I’ve been fortunate never to have crossed paths with a debt collector so I was looking for stories to help put me in the shoes of those who have.

I read about stories of people paying off debts but through some clerical error, the debt was incorrectly sold to a collector. I read stories about legitimate debts that suddenly went to a collector and stories of people who simply didn’t pay up.

If you thought debt collectors only went after “deadbeats,” you’re wrong. There are as many stories of people current on their debts as there are those who are behind.

Here’s one story and Craig’s advice on what he would’ve done differently:
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What Constitutes Debt Validation?

DebtSo I sent a debt collection dispute letter, now what?

Well, now you wait.

In most states, the collector has 2 options:

  • They can cease all collection efforts and drop the issue completely, or,
  • They can get validation and try to collect again.

Unless they validate the debt, including all the fees the collection agency has added on, you don’t have to do anything. It’s in this phase that most debt collectors trip up and make mistakes, which will be to your advantage.

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Writing Your Debt Collection Dispute Letter

DebtThis is the second guest post in a special How to Fight Debt Collectors series on Bargaineering.com.

Writing a debt collection dispute letter is the first line of defense against a debt collector. Make them prove that the debt is legitimate before you do anything. Just because they have your name doesn’t mean the debt is legitimate. If you don’t remember it or you remember paying it off, a dispute letter can help you resolve it quickly.

Once you know who is calling you and what they are likely to do, it’s time to push back with a properly worded dispute letter.

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How to Research Debt Collectors & Understand the Law

DebtThis is the first guest post in a special How to Fight Debt Collectors series on Bargaineering.com.

So you’ve received a debt collection call or letter…

In this day and age where you have rampant foreclosures, layoffs and job losses, it is simply inevitable that an individual may come across a debt collector, and frankly even without these external factors, it may just happen by a chance wrong number or even being related to someone going through a hard time financially. Many people have questions and are unprepared to deal with this, but after reading this series of articles, you will be. I will detail the key steps you should take to secure your rights, aggressively defend yourself, and ultimately make the debt collectors pay YOU to go away. This is not your typical “just pay your bills and get a second job” column, so please read on.

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How to Fight Debt Collectors Series

List of Credit Card Debt Starting next week, we will be publishing a series of articles in a new feature series called How to Fight Debt Collectors. I’ve tapped the expertise of Craig Cunningham, known as Codename47 on the Fatwallet Forums, who has been a citizen warrior in the fight against debt collectors. If you have a debt collection problem and you post it on the Fatwallet Finance Forums, the first name that everyone recommends you message is Codename47. If you do a search on his name on Fatwallet, you’ll see he’s out there helping everyone being hounded by a debt collector.

This guy is a real deal.

I’ve written about how to fight debt collectors in the past, but I wanted to put together a dedicated series authored by a true expert. For that, I tapped the most experienced, knowledgeable, battle-tested person I knew. We were strangers before the process started but I’m glad to have made his acquaintance and had the benefit of learning from his experience.

In this series, Codename47 will be discussing the advice on how to fight back against debt collectors. This is the same advice he uses when helping folks on Fatwallet, just distilled into article form, and it’ll cover tactics such as how to conduct background research on the collector, how to confirm they are following state and local laws, how to craft a good dispute letter (keep it simple stupid), how you should document violations so you can take them to court, and other parts of the process only a seasoned veteran can know.

This won’t be a guide for people looking to get out of legitimate debts. It’s going to advise you of your rights under the law and protect you from being harassed. I feel personal accountability is always important and that one should fulfill their financial obligations, but not at the expense of your liberties (or sanity).

As the articles are published I will link to them here so bookmark this page, or subscribe to the RSS feed, if you want to ensure you don’t miss an article.

Debt Collection Articles

  1. How to Research Debt Collectors & Understand the Law If you have a debt collector calling you, it’s important that you conduct background research on them and familiarize yourself with the debt collection laws in your state.
  2. Writing Your Debt Collection Dispute Letter – Is the debt legitimate? Are they the ones who would be collecting? Make them prove it to you with a dispute letter.
  3. What Constitutes Debt Validation? – You sent your debt dispute letter and they responded, but was the response a legitimate and adequate validation of your debt?
  4. Case Study: Classic Debt Collection Story – A reader shares with us her experience with a debt collector and Craig gives his post-mortem debriefing on how he would’ve handled it differently.
  5. When Debt Collectors Violate the FDCPA – So you sent a letter, told them that calling was “inconvenient,” but the collectors still call… what do you do when debt collectors violate the FDCPA? Read and find out.
  6. What are Junk Debt Buyers? – Many of the debt collectors that operate today bought the debt, sometimes known as junk debt, from another party. Find out how it all works and how you might benefit from knowing if the collector is a junk debt buyer.
  7. Understanding 1st Party and 3rd Party Collectors – Not all debt collectors are created equal, find out the difference between a 1st party and 3rd party debt collector.
  8. How to Sue Debt Collectors – Now that they’ve broken the law, take them to court.

(Photo: pumpkinjuice)

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How Debt Management Programs Work

A few weeks ago, I discussed How Debt Settlement Works, and today I wanted to talk about another debt related topic – debt management programs or debt management plans.

A debt management program is similar to debt settlement in that you pay a third party who will, after taking their fee, pay your creditors. You are still responsible for your debts but the third party will help you stay disciplined in keeping your obligations. However, that’s where the similarities between the two differ.

A debt management programs or plans may be able to help you negotiate for lower interest rates on your debts, get your late fees waived or reduced, work out a payment schedule, and potentially consolidate your various monthly payments into one payment. Like debt settlement, these programs are not cheap and some places will charge you a lot in fees. The goal with a debt management program

Disclaimer: Much like the disclaimer in the debt settlement post, I have to issue the same warning here. I’m not in the debt management business, I’m a personal finance blogger. I know debt management is fraught with scams, frauds, and other unsavory characters and so I’m writing this for educational purposes only. I’m not advocating anyone use debt management and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of anything in this article because I’ve never been through the process.

Please consult a lawyer and an accountant before making any decisions based on the information you read here.


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How Debt Settlement Works

List of Credit Card Debt Everything I’ve ever read about debt settlement has been extremely negative and, for the most part, ugly. It’s because debt settlement is designed for people in very dire circumstances.

A friend of mine recently got into the debt settlement business since he was working with a lot of individuals in weak financial situations. We spent the better part of three hours discussing how debt settlement worked, why debt settlement made sense to some people, and why the business had such a bad reputation. My friend is a stand-up guy, I trust him, and so it was refreshing to hear about the business, warts and all.

In this Foundation series article, I hope to pass on some of that knowledge to you.

Disclaimer: I’m not in the debt settlement business, I’m a personal finance blogger. I know debt settlement is fraught with scams, frauds, and other unsavory characters and so I’m writing this for educational purposes only. I’m not advocating anyone use debt settlement and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of anything in this article because I’ve never been through the process.

Please consult a lawyer and an accountant before making any decisions based on the information you read here.


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