Collection agencies are businesses that use various strategies in order to get you to pay what they consider is the amount you owe a certain company. However the amount you owed initially and the amount they now consider you owe are often not related. Often collectors fees and charges are added on to the initial sum and can be incredibly inflated.
This is why it is important to know what your rights are and how to defend yourself against collection agencies that harass and demand ridiculous fees you are expected to pay for the creditor. You must know that you are protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that clearly states the rights and obligations of both debtors and creditors, including the collection agencies.
You should get to know the FDCPA in order to defend yourself against harassment and unlawful behavior by collection agencies. You do not have to have a law degree to understand some important rules handling of your debts. Make sure the collection agent identifies himself as a debt collector, gives proof of the debt with the name and address of the creditor. You have the right to request that the collection agency stops contacting you or only when you tell them to. They have no right to harass or abuse you or reveal your debt information to third parties. They should in no way threaten you with illegal actions, such as imprisonment if you do not pay your debt. You can find a more detailed list of all your rights as a debtor online at the FDCPA's website.
If you are contacted by a collection agency you should request a detailed verification of the debt and the proof that you actually owe a debt and to whom. This must be done in order to make sure the collection agency is not using a junk debt. Some collection agencies purchase uncollectible debts and harass people to pay them to leave them alone. If you request a verification they will leave off as they have probably found your name and address as well as your accounts and more often than not the debt they are asking payment for is expired or inaccurate and cannot be collected.
Always ask for verification when a collector contacts you and do so in writing by certified mail. Avoid signing any letter or document in case your signature is used on other documents you have never signed. In your letter make sure you specify clearly that you only want to be contacted by mail. Once you have done so they will not be able to contact you legally by phone, thus will avoid verbal harassment.
Once you have sent the letter demanding verification and mail contact wait to see what happens. The collection agency may no longer contact you, but it may be best to check your credit report just in case they try to insert your debt illegally, if they do you have the original letter and proof they have received it. If they cannot provide you with verification then they will send you a letter telling you they have dropped their claims, so make sure you keep this letter safely.
You may receive proof of the debt, but this cannot be in the form of a letter stating you owe money, but a copy of the original statement from the creditor proving that the debt is valid. If you receive original proof, check it is within the time the debt can be legally collected. Your next step will be to try and negotiate a settlement.