Self Help - Debt Collection

Please Note



Nothing on this web site should be viewed as creating an attorney-client relationship between you and our law firm, or any of our attorneys. The information here is general in nature and should not be viewed as applying to your specific circumstances. Only a qualified consumer rights attorney can advise you about your specific situation. Hyde & Swigart are California consumer rights attorneys. State laws, and the interpretation and rulings on federal laws, are different in each jurisdiction. If you feel you need consumer rights legal advice, contact Hyde & Swigart at (619) 233-7770 for a free consultation.

It is the opinion of Hyde & Swigart, that if you are being abused, harassed, or lied to by a debt collector you need the advice of an attorney dedicated to advocating for you and your consumer rights. That is what we do at Hyde & Swigart. We don’t charge you to discuss your case, and we don’t charge you attorney fees or costs unless we prevail on your behalf. If you have been abused by a debt collector, you need not fear calling us. We will listen to you, tell you if you have a case, and give you some options - all at no charge. If you feel your rights are being violated, we urge you to call us at (619) 233-7770 for a free consultation.

However, there are things you can do to fend off abusive debt collectors. Even if you eventually intend to call a consumer rights attorney, these steps will probably help your case.

(1) Under the FDCPA and the RFDCPA, you have the right to dispute a debt within thirty days of the first written communication with you.

Under the FDCPA and the RFDCPA, you have the right to dispute a debt. By disputing the debt, if you take the correct steps, you will impose a duty on the debt collector to take certain steps, or refrain from taking certain action against you. It is imperative that you dispute all debts from third party debt collectors, in writing, within thirty days of the initial communication with you. Even if you feel you owe the debt, you must dispute the debt as outlined below. The reason is this: You only have thirty days in which to dispute a debt from the day you receive the initial communication from the debt collector, and if you fail to dispute the debt and determine after thirty days that the interest being charged, charges for additional fees, or other charges are incorrect, it will be too late. Here are important points to consider.

Dispute the debt in writing. Disputing the debt over the telephone does not protect your rights.
You need not get fancy with your debt collection letter. Simply tell the debt collector that you dispute the debt. Be sure to date the letter, include the name of the company or person to whom you allegedly owe the debt, include the account number, and sign the letter. Make a copy of the letter after you sign it and keep it for your file. You may also wish to send the letter certified mail or return receipt requested. (This last item is not required, but it may help you later.)
Dispute each debt individually. If one debt collector is collecting on two debts, send that collector two letters within the initial thirty day period.
Dispute the debt within thirty days of the receipt of the first communication. Do not wait! Dispute the debt immediately to be safe.
“First communication” means the first time you hear from a new debt collector in any manner. If they call you on the telephone, if they write you a letter, if they show up at your home and speak with you in person - the clock begins to tick
You must dispute the debt every time the debt switches hands. If Acme Debt Collection contacts you on September 10, you must dispute the debt, in writing, no later than October 10. If, two weeks later, Bad Guy Debt Collector contacts you on the same debt, dispute the debt again within thirty days.
By disputing the debt to a third party debt collector, in writing, within thirty days, you force the debt collector to either validate the debt or stop collecting from you. With minor exceptions, if the debt collector contacts you in any manner after they receive the dispute letter, without validating the debt, they have violated the law and you are entitled to sue.

(2) Keep notes. This can not be said too often. Keep notes.

Keep notes of all conversations with debt collectors, what was said, the date of the communication, the time of the conversation, who said what, etc. Especially note anything that sounds suspiciously to you. If they threaten to garnish your wages, sue you, call your boss, charge you with a crime, put a lien on your home, what you told them, etc. Keep notes.

(3) Save all tape recordings of communications from debt collectors.

If the debt collector leaves a message on your answering machine or voice mail, keep it. Do not erase it, no matter how innocent you think it sounds.

(4) Know the law and your rights.

This web site is filled with information telling you about the law and your rights. Know this information.

(5) Do not let debt collectors call you at your place of employment.

If a debt collector calls you at work and you want him to stop, tell him it is inconvenient for you to be receiving calls at work and tell him to stop. Further, if your company has a policy, written or otherwise, that states you can not receive personal calls, discourages personal calls, tell the debt collector that, too. When dealing with a debt collector who calls you at work, know these important points.

Warnings not to contact you at work need not be in writing. These you can do over the telephone.
Tell the debt collector calls are “inconvenient” and that the person needs to stop calling you at work.
Tell the debt collector of any policy at your work placet that forbids or discourages you from receiving personal calls at work.

(6) Remember, if it sounds wrong, it is probably wrong.

Debt collectors cannot abuse you. They cannot use profanity. They cannot threaten you with action they do not intend to take, such as the threat to sue you or the threat to "garnish your wages." A debt collector cannot "garnish your wages" unless they take you to court and get a judgment. If a debt collector threatens to "garnish your wages" but have never gone to court with you, the debt collector has probably violated the law. Debt collectors cannot your debts with your friends, co-workers, neighbors, parents, siblings, or anyone else, other than your lawyer or your spouse.

(7) Be calm. If you get angry you diminish the strength of your case.

Do not lie to the debt collector, and do not get angry. It is perfectly acceptable to tell the debt collector that you do not want to speak to him. Tell him to stop calling. Stick up for yourself, but do not lie and do not get angry.

(8) Be suspicious and be cynical.

Do not believe anything a debt collector says just because he says it. If something sounds wrong, it is probably wrong. Debt collectors lie. Debt collectors say whatever they feel will get you to pay them the money they are demanding, whether you owe the money or not - whether you can pay the money or not. And do not bother telling them why you can not pay - they do not care. If this sounds cynical, remember, we have filed hundreds of these cases, and heard from thousands of debt collectors. Debt collectors would steal food from the mouths of your children if they thought it would get you to pay. Trust us - they do not care about you, and when they say they are just trying to help you, they are lying. They are just trying to help themselves.

(9) Get real.

Do not agree to anything that you can not reasonably expect to fulfill. You do not have to, and you should not do it. It is a debt, it isn't a crime. If you bring home $3000 a month and you are currently spending $2900 a month just to get by, you should not promise to pay $300 per month to a debt collector. (Or $100 per month, for that matter - get real.) All people have money problems at times. We have had them, debt collectors have had them - everyone has had them. And never give a debt collector your checking account number. Never agree to automatic payments from your checking account. Never make a payment by phone with your checking account or a credit card. Never issue post dated checks. Never borrow money to pay the debt. Never stop paying one debt to pay another. NEVER. It is just a debt.

(10) Keep notes (or did we already mention that?)

Keep notes!