Behind that supremely confident tone debt collectors have when they call, resides an inescapable truth: They have no way of knowing for sure if they’re talking to the right person. This is why debt collectors must validate a debt before they proceed to collect on it. Knowing this puts you at an advantage, whether you owe the debt or not.
Debt Has a “Shelf Life”
Collectors have a finite window within which they can sue consumers for payment and win a judgment against them. The clock starts the day you fail to make a payment and keeps running for a specific period of time, which varies by the type of debt and from state to state.
Here’s the thing, though: You do still owe the debt regardless of whether or not the time has run out. And, if a collector can get you to admit responsibility for the debt, the clock starts running again as of that date. Thus, it’s best to refuse to accept responsibility for any debt until it is unequivocally proven to be yours — and the time to collect it hasn’t run out.
They Might Not be Authorized to Collect on It
It is not unheard of for a collection agency to contact people about debts for which they have not been authorized to act upon.
What if you pay in good faith, only to subsequently learn that the agency had no right to contact you, the people you owed never got the money and they are now actually sending someone after you about it?
People Make Mistakes — All the Time
Data is only as good as the people entering it. One juxtaposed number or letter can be all it takes to trigger calls you shouldn’t be getting.
The call might well be about a debt you’ve already paid. People do make mistakes. When you get a call about XYZ credit card and you vaguely remember having an issue with it, your first instinct might be to just pay it, or seek some form of credit card debt relief so you can go on with your life.
Why should you do so if you’ve already made good on it though?
There are also unscrupulous people in this world. Some try to make their way “collecting” on bogus debt.
Long story short, the fact you got a letter or a call saying you owe someone money doesn’t necessarily mean you owe someone money.
They Might Not Have Full Documentation
Some companies buy old bad debts for pennies on the dollar. In exchange for that money, they get a spreadsheet containing names, contact information and amounts owed. However, they need more information than that to be able to legally collect — and they know it.
They have to tell you the amount of the original debt, how much you currently owe and how much of that current total is fees and interest. They must also provide the name of the original creditor to which it was owed, along with written documentation of the debt from the original creditor.
Companies like these fold pretty quickly when you tell them — in writing — they must provide full documentation, because they don’t have it. They’re just taking a chance you won’t ask.
Always Submit a Validation Request
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why debt collectors must validate debt before they collect.
Don’t just admit to owing money and pay when you get a call.