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Five Questions to Ask before Paying a Debt

Many debt collectors behave professionally and work within the letter of the law to collect debts owed to their clients or their own companies. Unfortunately, there are also those that behave unscrupulously and mistreat consumers, sometimes to the point of breaking the law. Whether you have been approached by an above board debt collector or you are dealing with one of the less savory characters in the debt collection industry, it is essential you gather as much information about the debt and the situation as possible.

What should you ask prior to providing payment for a debt?

1. What is the name and contact information of the original creditor and what is the name of your organization? You should write this information down as it is answered. It allows you to go back later and ensure the debt is one for which you are responsible and it allows you to determine if the debt collector calling is really who they say they are. It is also a good idea that you ask the information be sent to you by the debt collector in writing.

2. Are any laws being broken in the attempt to collect the debt? There are certain times of day debt collectors are permitted to call and they must abide by certain rules during that call. They are not allowed to threaten you, nor can they speak to you using harsh or abusive language. Basically, debt collectors must behave professionally. If a debt collector is threatening or abusive, this should raise a red flag about the situation.

3. How does the debt collector respond when you ask for additional information about the debt? You have a right to receive information about the debt in writing. Many debt collectors supply this information without being asked after contacting you and some initiate their contact with you via mail.

4. Has the statute of limitations on the debt passed? If you know this debt is from a long time ago and yet you are receiving a call from a debt collector, ask why. There’s no telling the answer you will get, but make note of whatever details are given. You will likely need to take further action to end collection efforts on “expired” debt, but asking about the reason for contact on an old debt is a good start.

You can find a list of state to state statutes of limitations here.

5. Is a settlement for the debt an option? Sometimes settling a debt – paying it off for less than the total amount owed – is the best option. If a debt collector is offering this, collect details on the settlement offer and take some time to consider the consequences of settling. If a settlement is not offered, the debt collector might accept one designed and offered by you. It is important to know all of your options before making any payment on a debt, in part or in whole.

If you are receiving calls from debt collectors and you are not sure what to do or whether the calls or appropriate, we can help. Contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Geller at 813.254.5696 for more information.

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