Why is it that when you go out to the mailbox, you become clairvoyant. You transform yourself from a Mom into a person that can see inside of envelopes. Yes, I am talking about you, Mom. You get the mail when the mailman comes and you finger through it like a beaver chewing on a log. You can tell just by your feel, whether or not, there is a nice letter from Mom, or a nasty letter from some lawyer or collection agency. You magically take that letter and put it under the coffee table so when your intelligent brother-in-law comes over, you can ask him what he thinks.
After all, he is smart about this stuff. But, the amazing thing about your ability to see inside of envelopes, you can pick out in the middle of the darkness a check. I commend you for that talent. Most men are not blessed with that talent so we rely on our wives to sort the mail. Yes, when that nasty letter comes, Mom puts it under the coffee table, never to see daylight again because she hates your brother anyway and wouldn’t ask him for the time of day.
So, let’s get into it. That nasty letter that you are afraid to open is quite funny. I’ll tell you why. It always helps to have knowledge of why certain laws are on your side so you can enjoy laughing just like I do when my daughter shows me her nasty letters. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which was amended by our famous Bill Clinton in (1997) has some very strong laws. When you are contacted by a creditor/bill collector for the 1st time, whether by mail or phone they must provide you with the following information. It is called the mini-miranda. Just like on TV. Yes, you have rights.
The message, whether it is oral or written must say this. “This is XXXx XXXXX and this is an attempt to collect a debt. You have thirty days FROM THE DATE OF THIS CALL OR FROM THE DATE YOU RECEIVE THIS LETTER, to dispute ANY portion of the debt. If, you fail to respond, we can ONLY ASSUME that the debt is valid and can use all legal means to collect.
Now, read carefully. It says you have thirty days to dispute ANY portion of the debt. Well, Mom, here is Sir Galahad to the rescue. Read further. It usually says ” Greetings, we are the owner of this debt. You owe us $ 5,000.00 Now, we understand your problems and want to help you (big deal). If, you send us a payment of $ 2,500.00 within the next ten days, we will consider this account as paid in full and notify the credit reporting agency.
Okay, Mom, just think about what they just did. They told you to pay $ 2,500.00 BEFORE you even had a chance to dispute any portion of the debt. This is a violation of Federal Law and they can be fined the amount of $ 1,000.00 and there is NO defense. So, from now on, even if the envelope looks official because it might have a lawyers address on, open it up and look for traps like this. I have more students now laughing when they get their mail instead of facing deficiency judgments for not responding. Watch for another article that I have coming out about “responding to lawsuits” regarding bill collectors.
Regis Sauger Author