Here’s how to confirm whether the caller is genuine and determine whether the debt is yours or not. These tips will help clear up the confusion.
Receiving a call from a debt collector is always concerning let alone just plain upsetting. But it’s even more unsettling when the debt collector is calling about an account you don’t even remember ever owing?
Can it be a loan that you forgot exists? Did the debt collector perhaps mix your details up with someone else’s? Is it a type of collection scam or fraud? Here’s how you go about clearing up the confusion.
1. Ask for more information
A legitimate debt collector will always be able to provide you with information about who they are the company they represent and the debt they’re collecting upon.
If you can’t get clarity over the phone, you have every legal right to hold off on discussing the debt further until the collection agent sends a written confirmatory notice, within five working days, which will verify “who” and “how much” you apparently owe.
They can’t continue collecting upon the account unless they can provide copies of the original documentation to you.
Information is absolutely important in this instance so ask the caller for his/her name, company their calling from, physical address, phone numbers, email address and registered debt collectors license number.
Note: Attorneys firms don’t require being registered debt collectors.
2. Watch out for warning signs
Avoid becoming a victim to a debt collection scam by keeping an eye out for shady behavior from a debt collector.
If the caller refuses to act in accordance with your reasonable requests for more information, keeps calling when you ask them to stop and doesn’t provide required written documented notices. You may be dealing with a scammer, to which we strongly suggest you seek advice from a professional.
According to the National Credit Regulator, suspicious behavior includes threatening to have you arrested, refusing to provide confirmation information concerning the debt they are apparently collecting upon and requesting your personal financial information i.e. banking account information.
3. Keep your lips sealed
If they’re calling you, they should know who you are, if a debt collector doesn’t know your name and can’t provide other basic information about you, take this immediately as a warning sign.
Don’t disclose information concerning your banking info: credit card info, bank account numbers, Identity number and other sensitive personal data. Fraudsters can use this information to apply for credit and commit identity fraud.
4. Get out a pen and paper
If you don’t recognize the debt, put it in writing.
Within 30 days of being initially contacted about the debt, send a letter (or email) requesting information and confirmatory documentation about the debt, the original creditor who apparently provided this line of credit and proof that this collection company is permitted to collect on the debt (letter of consent from the credit provider to the debt collection agency).
The debt collector should be able to respond with the requested information. If you, the supposed debtor, doesn’t receive that, it’s one indication that debt collector doesn’t really have the authority to collect the debt in the first place.
Keep in mind that the consumer doesn’t have to prove that he or she doesn’t owe a debt. Too often I hear how debt collectors place the burden of proof upon the consumer to prove they do not owe the debt; which is not in line with the National Credit Act nor the Debt Collectors Act. Burden of proof has always fallen upon the debt collector to prove, not the consumer. If the debt collector cannot prove that the debt exists and is due and pending in the first place, it then judicially stands to reason that they do not have a legitimate and legal case to begin with.
Word to the wise: Keep records of any and all correspondence, including copies of any letters or emails you send, and if you post any letters ensure it is via registered mail.
5. Verify if the debt is not prescribed
Are you having trouble remembering the debt because it’s from ages back? Refer to our articles on Zombie debt and Prescription and see if your particular situation doesn’t fit our description thereof.
Be wary about this before beginning to repay any debt, as initiating repayment will restart the clock.
If it’s an old debt, you should be very cautious about making a payment or even admitting the debt is yours. Speak to us it you are unsure for professional advice.
If the company refuses to provide confirmatory documentation, threatens to arrest you or harasses you non-stop, you can always file a complaint with the Consumer Ombudsman and the National Credit Regulator.
The complaints form and “how to” information is available on their respective sites and requests information about the type of debt, your complaint and your desired resolution.
It helps to put a little bit of teeth behind the dispute-resolution process.
If you’re finding the collection process is getting out of hand, think about bringing on a debt specialist to assist you or contact an attorney.
Therefore OUDS is willing to assist consumers in this predicament with a free service of a financial assessment, assist the consumer to organise an affordable, realistic and structured monthly budget and debt management plan thereby providing consumers with a guideline for eliminating and remaining out of debt.