Debt Settlement Process
The first step in the debt settlement process is to provide any documents you may have regarding the debt. Your Fields Law debt attorney will advise you on the best method of settling and/or negotiating your debts based on several factors:
- The number of debts
- The amount of each debt
- The age of the debts
- Who currently owns the debts
Our debt settlement attorneys can negotiate with creditors, the law firms that represent them, and debt collection agencies that have purchased the outstanding debts.
Your attorney may negotiate to settle your debt for less than what is being requested by the creditor, arrange a payment plan for you to pay off the debt in smaller increments without accruing more interest, or help you to settle debts in one lump sum.
The Amount Owed On The Debt Appears Much Higher Than I Remember. Can I Dispute The Debt?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), you have the right to dispute a debt. Your right to dispute is made up of three important sub-rights:
1. Right to receive notice of the debt: within five days of first contacting you, the debt collector must send you a letter containing all of the following information:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the creditor
- What you can do if you think there has been a mistake or that you don’t actually owe the money
2. Right to dispute the debt: within 30 days of receiving notice of the debt, you have the right to send a letter to the debt collector disputing the debt and requesting the name and contact information of the original creditor.
After receiving your dispute, the debt collector is required by law to stop all debt collection activities until it sends verification of the debt.
3. Right to receive verification of the debt: after receiving your dispute, a debt collector is required to verify the debt by providing you with enough information regarding the debt to enable you to determine whether you actually owe it. The type of information provided by the debt collector depends on the specific reason(s) for your dispute.
Most often, verification includes, at a minimum, the following:
- Amount of debt
- Date of debt
- Name and contact information of original creditor
If your dispute is based on identity theft or mistaken identity, verification should include a copy of the original signed contract or note. If you are disputing the amount of the debt, verification should include information about payment history as well as interest and fees charged and/or waived.
Can I Dispute The Debt Over The Phone Or Does My Dispute Need To Be In Writing?
You can dispute the debt over the phone; however, disputing in writing is always preferable because written disputes require debt collectors to stop all collection activity and send a verification of the debt. If you only dispute over the phone, debt collectors can continue collection activity and will not be required to send verification of the debt.
Can I Still Dispute My Debt If 30 Days Have Already Passed Since I Received Notice Of The Debt?
Yes; however, the debt collector will not be required to stop all collection activity or send verification of the debt. If you want to take advantage of these legal protections, you must submit a timely written dispute. With that being said, if you have some legitimate defenses to the debt, it is in your best interest to submit a written dispute even after the 30 day time period has passed, attaching any evidence you may have that demonstrates that you do not owe the debt, i.e., a police report supporting identity theft or any letters or checks confirming that you previously paid off or resolved the debt at issue. If you provide the debt collector with proof that you do not owe the debt, any continued collection attempts will be in violation of the law.
Should I Still Dispute The Debt Even If I Think It Might Belong To Me?
It never hurts to dispute a debt, even if you do recognize it as belonging to you. The dispute and verification process exists to provide consumers with accurate information prior to making payment on a debt. By disputing the debt, you force the debt collector to confirm the amount owed and the original creditor. You just never know when a debt collector could be lying or misrepresenting the amount owed on a debt. Thus, it is never a good idea to take a debt collector at their word and make a payment without first submitting a written dispute to confirm the amount and original creditor.
Can A Debt Collector Garnish My Bank Account Or My Wages?
If you don’t pay a debt, a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.
Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Don’t ignore a lawsuit summons. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage garnishment.
Can Federal Benefits Be Garnished?
Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:
- Social Security Benefits
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
- Veterans’ Benefits
- Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
- Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
- Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance
Federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans.
Call our debt settlement attorneys today if you have questions about the debt settlement process. We can help you understand your options and how to settle your debts, regardless of how many debts you have or how much you owe. Contact Fields Law today for a free, no-obligation debt case review.