Believe it or not, this happens more often than you might imagine. You answer the telephone and a collector says you owe $1,500 on a Capital One® Visa credit card from 2008 and you better pay up. But you never had a Capital One Visa credit card.
What probably happened
Given the fact that this supposed debt is five years old, the collection agency probably purchased it from another collection agency that had purchased it from the original lender. Then, somewhere along the way during these transactions, the debt was mistakenly assigned to you.
What you can do
If you sincerely believe the debt is not yours, there are things you will need to do. First, you should write the collection agency and ask it to document the debt. You can ask for a copy of the original contract and the date and details of the last payment. Additionally, you can ask the collection agency to prove that it really owns the debt. There are scam collection agencies that will try to collect on debts they don’t actually own so it pays to be careful.
The agency might file suit
One of the tricks played by unscrupulous collection agencies is to file suit without notifying you that it has done so. It will try to convince the court that you had received notification but chose to not show up for your court date. It would then ask for a default judgment. If it gets this, it would then be able to put a lien against one of your assets such as your house. It could even garnish your wages. If you are sued and are notified about a court date, be sure to show up. It’s vital that you be there and, again, make the agency prove the debt is really yours.
You may need an attorney
If you can’t convince the collection agency that the debt isn’t yours or if you’re sued, you may want to hire an attorney who is experienced in debt collection cases. He or she will defend you and will know if the collection agency has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If it turns out that this is the case, you could sue the collection agency for up to $1,000 and get your attorney’s fees paid.
Know the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
If you’re being harassed by a debt collector, whether the debt is really yours or not, it pays to know the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For example, this act stipulates that debt collectors are not to call you at inconvenient times nor call you at work unless you have given it permission to do so. It also has information about stopping debt collectors from contacting you, and what collectors have to tell you about your debt. You can get more information about this act at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection and if a debt collector is harassing you, you should definitely do so.