This article was written by Lemberg Law staff, and reviewed by Sergei Lemberg, the managing attorney of Lemberg Law.
There are three ways to determine which debt collectors you owe how and much you owe: 1) Review your credit report; 2) Send a dispute letter to the debt collection agency; and 3) Contact the original creditor.
Debt collection quickly gets complicated. A debt you owe can be collected by a debt collector working for:
- The original creditor.
- A third-party debt collector.
- A debt buyer.
When the collector is employed by the creditor, the money you owe is to the original creditor. An example of this is if you owe a dental bill and someone from the dentist’s office calls to try and collect.
If and when the dentist doesn’t want to collect, they may hire a third-party debt collection agency. When this happens, the debt is still owed to the dentist, but you will send the payment to the debt collection agency.
If the third-party debt collection agency can’t collect it, the dentist at some point may decide to sell your debt to a debt buyer. At that point, the debt buyer owns your debt and their debt collectors contact you.
When third-party debt collectors and debt buyers enter the picture, it can be hard to trace the origins of the debt and find out exactly what debt collectors you owe and how much you owe.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you the right to know the origins of a debt collected by a third-party debt collector or a debt buyer. Section 809 of the FDCPA covers the validation of debts and says that, within five days of initially contacting you, the debt collector must send you a written notice listing the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a statement saying that you have the right to ask for the name of the original creditor (if different from the current owner of the debt).
There are three ways you can do the detective work to get to the bottom of how much you owe and to whom you owe it:
- Send a dispute letter.
- Review your credit report.
- Contact the original creditor.
Send a dispute letter
Under the FDCPA, you have the right to dispute a debt within 30 days of receiving a debt collector’s initial letter. If you send the debt collection agency a dispute letter and ask for the name and address of the original creditor, they are required to provide that information to you. They are not allowed to continue to try and collect the debt until they do so.
Review your credit report
An efficient way to obtain information about which creditors and debt buyers you owe is to order your credit report through one or more of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You are legally entitled to one free credit report from each of these credit bureaus every year. Because debt buyers sometimes choose to report to only one credit reporting bureau, ordering a report from each bureau will provide you with the most comprehensive information. You can order a free report from each of the three bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
After you obtain your credit report, you should review the entire report carefully. The middle to end of your report will list accounts like credit cards, mortgages, and other revolving accounts of credit, along with information about your payment status. Below that is a separate section that lists any debts you have in collection. Here, you should find information about how much you owe on each account and the name and address of the business that holds this debt.
Contact the original creditor
To get a better understanding of whether or not you owe a debt in question, you can contact the original creditor and ask them for information that substantiates that you owe the debt. Asking them to whom they sold your debt may prove fruitless, as blocks of debt often change hands and the debt buyer currently contacting you may have repurchased the debt from another debt buyer.
If you are getting the runaround from debt collectors, are unable to obtain information about which debt collectors you owe, or have questions about your rights when dealing with debt collectors, you can contact Lemberg Law’s knowledgeable and experienced team at 844-685-9200 ☎ NOW. Alternately, you can submit our online form and one of our team members will contact you.See media coverage
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