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Dealing with Debt Collectors - Common questions

Common questions

A creditor is trying to collect a debt I already paid. What can I do?

If a collector is asking for more than you owe, or a debt that you’ve paid already, you can dispute the debt. By disputing a debt you’re telling the collector that you don’t owe the debt. Once you’ve let the collector know you’re disputing the debt, it must stop contacting you. See "Understand your legal rights", above, in the “If you dispute the debt” section. 

The bank assigned my account to a collection agent. What does this mean?

If a bank (or any creditor) hasn’t been able to get you to pay your debt, it can “assign” the debt to someone else. Basically, the bank sells the debt to another party, who then becomes responsible for getting you to pay it back. In exchange, the other party usually promises to pay the bank a percentage of what’s collected. 

Collection agencies are in the business of taking over the debt claims of other creditors. They don’t have any special legal power to collect from you. However, they are known for using more aggressive tactics than most creditors. You’ll likely start to receive phone calls from the collection agency. The law regulates when and how debt collectors can contact you. See the “Understand your legal rights” section above.

What happens if I ignore a collection agent?

Legally speaking, you have the right to ignore a collection agent. However, it’s important to understand that this won’t make your debt go away. There are several possible outcomes if you ignore a collector’s calls. 

One: the collector may give up trying to contact you. This is unlikely, and not something you should count on. 

Two: the debt might continue to grow. It’s possible the debt will continue to incur interest until the agent is able to collect. This depends on the agreement between the creditor and the collection agent. 

Three: the collection agent may start contacting people you know. If the agent can’t get hold of you, it may start calling your friends, family members, or even your employer. However, there are laws that limit when and in what circumstances a collector can contact other people about your debt. See the “Understand your legal rights” section above. 

Finally, the collector might sue you for the debt. While it’s possible to successfully defend a collection lawsuit, it’s difficult. If the lawsuit is successful, the collector would get a monetary judgment against you. This could allow the collector to take money from your wages or your bank account to pay the debt.