According to a new report released by the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA), debt collection agencies recovered $55 billion in debt owed to creditors during 2010. Debt collectors do not always follow the rules under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when trying to collect from consumers.

Here are some tips on how to deal with debt collectors:

[1] If you receive a letter or a telephone call from a collection agency, respond. Ignoring the debt or correspondence from the collection agency can result in additional fees, possible court proceedings and damage to your credit report.

[2] Always communicate with debt collectors in writing. Writing provides a record of all conversations, agreements and payments. When you send a letter, send it via the Post Office as certified mail, return receipt requested. This provides proof you sent the document and proof that the collection agency received it.  If you have to hire a lawyer these documents will help to support your claims.

[3] Keep a log of all incoming calls from the debt collector.  You should record the date, time and identity of the caller. Also, write down a brief description of the substance of the call.

[4] Stay calm, cool and collected when you speak to the debt collectors. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and say something you will regret later! Often, debt collectors record the phone calls.

[5] Dispute the validity of the debt. The debt collector must validate that you do owe the debt, including the identity of the original creditor and the amount owed. During this time, the debt collector must stop trying to collect the debt from you until it has validated the debt.

[6] If you owe the debt, negotiate a payment plan that you can afford or a lump sum payment.  Ask the debt collector to stop reporting the debt as past due to the credit reporting agencies.

[7] Debt collectors do not have to accept your partial payments, but send it anyway. If they cash it, it will be used to pay down your debt. If they return the payment back to you, keep the letter and envelope they return it in and continue to send the amount you promised to pay.

[8] If you owe multiple debts to the same debt collector you can specify which account you want your payments to go to. The debt collector may have merged the debt together like a debt consolidation, but they are still separate accounts.

[9] If you get sued by a debt collector then you should contact a consumer protection attorney immediately.  The law requires you to file an answer if you are served with a lawsuit.  If you don’t file an answer the debt collector can file a motion for default judgment against you and get a money judgment because you didn’t file an answer.  The debt collector may then use the judgment to garnish your wages.

[10] Learn all of your rights when dealing with debt collectors. Most consumers do not know they have rights under federal law, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  To learn more about dealing with debt collectors, contact us 24/7 for a free case review 1-800-263-9091.

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