Last week I received a letter from a debt collector claiming that I owed £2100 in relation to a credit card, which I knew what not correct. I contacted the company and they informed me that they had purchased the debt from the credit card company but could not tell me any more.
I know that I do not owe this money. This week I went out on Twitter and discovered that this is happening to lots of people, some of whom have been subjected to months of hounding by debt collectors.
In some cases the whole thing is simply fraudulent, however on other occasions the company chasing you believes that you owe the debt but they are in fact wrong. Either way, you obviously should not pay.
If you find yourself in this situation here’s what you need to do:
1. Check your credit report
If the debt is a loan or in relation to a credit card, check your credit report. You can do this online with companies like Experian. This report should show details of any money that you currently owe, including to whom you owe the money. If the debt that your concerned with does not show on your report tell the debt collector.
2. Demand information
Remember, when you’re chased for money unexpectedly there is always a good chance that it is not genuine. You therefore need to ask the debt collector to provide you with as much information as possible to verify that it is a genuine debt. If the debt is to do with a loan or credit card you will want to see the agreement that you signed. This point is very important, as under the Consumer Credit Act a lender cannot recover a loan from borrower unless they can produce the agreement.
You also need to ask them for proof that not only do you owe money but also that you owe the actual amount that they are asking you for. You should also do your own investigations on this point, such as looking through bank statements to see what payments you have made.
3. If they come knocking
If you believe that you do not owe the money simply tell the person that knocks in your door this and ask them to leave. Remember, a doorstep collector has absolutely no power when it comes to chasing you for money. In fact all they can do is ask you nicely for the money and leave if you say no. There are also now clear guidelines laid down by the Office Of Fair Trading for the behaviour of debt collectors. These guidelines say that debt collectors should not contact people several times a day, or early in the morning or late at night. Neither should they pursue people on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, threaten people physically or verbally, or ignore people if they say they don’t owe the money.
If any of these things happen, then complain directly to the company that says it is owed money, not to the debt collector. If that doesn’t work, report them to Trading Standards.
4. What next?
If the debt collector cannot provide you with a copy of the agreement (if the debt is in relation to a loan or any other form of credit) tell them that you do not want to deal with them until they can produce the agreement and also tell them that under the Consumer Credit Act they cannot enforce the loan without the agreement. If they do produce an agreement (that you have clearly signed) as them to produce concrete evidence that you actually still owe the money. Again if they cannot do this simply tell them to stop bothering you until such time as they can produce sufficient evidence.
Remember two things:
you do have rights as a consumer
it is never worth a debt collector's while enforcing a debt if they do not have sufficient evidence to prove that it is owed. Without this a court would not entertain the claim. For this reason debt collectors often make idle threats but never back those threats up with any legal action.
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