Debt Collector Violates the Law

AskBobHeaderDebt Collector Violates the Law


Dear Bob,

I received a call today from a debt collector. They said my husband had an old car loan from 1999 that he never paid. The bank is opening up the debt again. Said balance due was 8k and with interest over the years we owe 24k. She is willing to settle for 50% of the principle 4k. She said he had 3 years to dispute this but now it is reopened and even though we weren’t married it will ruin my credit also. A 17 year old debt and the car was a repossession. She is sending something in the mail overnight. I did not say I would pay anything. I didn’t know if it was my husband’s debt. She said if I didn’t agree to a payment we would not get the reduction offer. How should I handle this please?

There is a set of laws called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that says what a debt collector can and cannot do. Unfortunately, debt collectors frequently break this set of laws and the above is no exception. Here is what this listener needs to know:

First, the debt collector had no business discussing the husband’s debt with the wife. The debt collector can only discuss the debt in detail with the person who owes the money. Second, the debt collector can’t threaten to do something that they can’t actually carry out. This debt in no way can affect the wife’s credit unless her name was originally on the debt. Finally, the debt collector would take anything for the debt since it is so old. Reduction offers don’t go away.

The reality is that the debt is way beyond the statute of limitations period. The debt collector has no legal options to attempt to collect the debt.  Since that is the case, the listener can attempt to either settle the debt with the debt collector for pennies on the dollar or send them a letter telling them to cease and desist all collection activity. Once they receive that letter, they will further violate the law if they attempt to collect. If that occurs, the listener actually has legal recourse over the violation of the law.

The irony is that this listener sent me an email 10 years ago about this same debt. Just like any debt owed, it typically will show up again.  Remember, a debt collector might be beyond the ability to take a person to court or legally go after their credit report. However, if you have a debt you will always owe the debt. This is why you always want to do whatever is possible to stay current and never let this process start.

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