December 05, 2011
Are you Saving those Dunning letters from Debt Collectors? You Should Be!
The Importance of Saving Dunning Letters from Debt Collectors
A “dunning” letter is simply a payment demand letter from a debt collector. These letters simply bring about a feeling of anxiety and a concern about credit, lawsuits, or even more severe consequences depending on how vicious and unlawful the debt collector’s practices may be. Naturally, I have never met a person who enjoys getting a debt collection dunning letter in the mail. This is true for folks who owe the debt, never owed the debt, or are not even sure whether or not they owe the debt.
Fortunately, 15 U.S.C. sec. 1692 of the federal law is designed to protect us as consumers from unscrupulous collectors who would make false representations of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt. This means that when they claim debts against a relative who has no obligation to pay them, or claim debts that have discharged in bankruptcy, or claim that they are the rightful holder or owner of a debt when in fact they are not, they may be in clear violation of federal law. By “rightful holder,” I mean simply that they claim they have the right and legal authority to sue and claim ownership of the debt. These are just a few among many, many more violations that debt collectors may routinely engage in as they prey upon unwitting consumers.
It is quite common for debt collectors, including attorneys’ offices, to resort to using fear tactics, false statements, and language that violates this law when trying to collect debts. These debt collectors engage in such practices because there are rarely held accountable for their violations and it happens to be a business where being cordial and professional often clearly results in fewer successful collections. Many times, they get away with this sort of illegal behavior because the victims of their wrongful collection actions are unaware that they have rights to pursue these debt collectors for damages. They may also get away with this conduct because the victims fail to maintain documents or evidence of the illegal activity.
Logically, you are already aware of the fact that a case against a debt collector is stronger and can be pursued more aggressively by a knowledgeable consumer attorney when the person who was targeted by the debt collector has letter after letter proving the violations of federal law. Somehow, these letters get misplaced or thrown in the trash, often because the victim thinks that it was a simple, innocent mistake and that it will not happen again. You should keep envelopes too for post marking and debt specific reasons. These will often be the easiest ways to establish relevant dates and times that a violation of the law took place. They may also help establish a timeline as to other important events in the communication.
Do not dispose of what may be the strongest evidence of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act FDCPA violation. In many situations, the actions taken by debt collectors may only be ramped up according to the response they get from you. If you make it a priority to keep the letter, an attorney can best determine whether or not you have been a victim of wrongful collection action.
The three things that you should do if you receive a dunning letter are:
- Review the letter to see if you can identify the debt to which the letter is referring,
- See if there is any language that you find misleading or threatening,
- See if you recognize the person or company that is trying to collect the debt.
Once you have done these things, you will want to consult with an attorney to discuss possible defenses you may have to the collection efforts. There are a lot of steps that debt collectors must ensure they have taken as they attempt to collect a debt. Even if you wish to resolve the matter by paying the debt, it is extremely important you protect yourself by making sure you pay the right person, that you get credit for your payment, and that you do not cause yourself further trouble by trying to do what might first seem to be the right thing.