Stopping Debt Collection Contact
If you want a debt collector to stop contacting you, you must write a letter to the collector telling them to stop. It is a good idea to send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested and make a copy of the letter. Once you make that request in writing, the collector cannot contact you except to inform you that they are ceasing contact or to inform you that they are going to do something specific, like turn the file over to an attorney or file a lawsuit. While the contact should stop, the collector or creditor can still sue you to collect the debt.
Knowing Your Debt
Debt collectors must inform you, in writing, of how much money you owe within five days after first contacting you. This “validation notice” must list the name of the creditor you owe and inform you what to do if you do not believe you owe that money. If you send a letter denying you owe some or all of the money, or if you ask for a verification of the debt, the collector may not contact you again (except to inform you of the actions listed in the section above). This letter must be sent within 30 days of receiving the validation notice, and it is effective until the collector responds with written verification of the amount you owe.
Can You Sue?
If you believe debt collectors have violated your rights under the FDCPA, you may sue them in state or federal court within one year from when the violation occurred. If you win, you may recover actual damages you can prove you suffered. Even if you cannot prove damages, you may be awarded up to $1,000. You might also recover attorney fees and court costs. Know that winning a suit for a collector’s violation of the FDCPA has no effect on your debt if you owe it.
In Texas, if anyone trying to collect a consumer debt has harassed or deceived you, they have not only violated the FDCPA and the Texas Debt Collection Act, but they have also violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices/Consumer Protection Act. This allows the Attorney General to take action in the public interest.
You can and should also report debt collection violators to the FTC and the Attorney General of Texas. Whether you should sue should be a decision you make after consulting with an experienced attorney.
Will You Be Sued?
Under Texas law, a creditor or debt collector cannot sue you for debts over four years old; it is ten years under the FDCPA. However, they can still contact you to attempt to collect it. So, if you are threatened with a lawsuit over “time-barred” debt, or if you are in fact sued over such debt, talk to an attorney about your options. Obviously, you will want to defend yourself in a lawsuit with an experienced attorney. If you are simply being contacted about time-barred debt, still consider talking to an attorney. You have options, and an attorney can explain the pros and cons of each of them, and help you decide what is best for you in your situation.
If you are sued to collect on a debt you allegedly owe, make sure you respond to the lawsuit, no matter what. You will lose the opportunity to fight for your rights if you do not respond on time. You do not want your wages garnished simply because you failed to respond. An attorney is best able to evaluate your situation, explain your options, and help you follow through with the best course of action.