In this last part of the series we discuss some useful tips that will make your life easier in dealing with debt collectors.
We have considered the first contact situation and your rights in the previous parts of this series. In this, final part we are going to talk about useful tips you should know.
As soon as the collector called you it is in your best interest to respond immediately. Delay can mean the collector will continue to contact you. The collector may even file a lawsuit and get a judgment against you. The result can cost you more time and trouble in the long run.
Within five days after the first phone call, the collector must send you a written notice. The notice must tell you how much you owe and the name of the creditor that says you owe the money. The written notice must also tell you how to file a dispute if you don't agree that you owe the money.
Payments should be made to the debt collector and not the original creditor unless you are expressly instructed to pay the creditor directly. In this case, you should confirm such instruction in writing to both the creditor and the debt collector.
Never pay a bill you don't owe just to get the collector to "go away." Any payment of the debt is considered an acknowledgement that you are responsible.
Even if you pay, that will not erase a negative entry on your credit report. The person who calls you from a collection agency has to give you his or her name and the name of the agency. The caller cannot pretend to be someone else.
A collection agency cannot lie about who it is or send documents that mislead you. You can write a letter to the agency telling it not to contact you by phone, not to call at certain times or locations, or not to make any further contact at all. This last request does entitle the collector to contact you one more time to inform you of what, if any, action it intends to take to collect the debt, but not to threaten you. You should send such a letter by certified mail and request a return receipt. If the company has a fax number, send the letter by both fax and by mail. Telling the collection agency not to contact you should stop the phone calls, but it won't stop the collection efforts.
Often, a single collection action will result in multiple negative entries on your credit report. For example, a delinquent account may be reported under the name of the original creditor and again under the section of the credit report for "collections." If the matter resulted in a court judgment, it may again appear on your credit report under the public records section. If you find the same account is reported in multiple areas of your credit report, dispute this with the credit bureaus and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Dual reporting of a single account can unfairly lower your credit score.