How to Ensure a Debt Collection Is Legitimate

Your phone rings. Someone on the other end is claiming to work for a collection agency of some kind. He tells you that the purpose of this call is to collect a debt. A debt which you either do not remember owing or is so old that you thought it was gone. How do you ensure this is legitimately collectible?

The caller must identify who he is and who he works for. A legitimate debt collector will supply a phone number, business name and mailing address. A scammer will fudge around this or claim he does not have to supply this information.

The majority of collection agencies will send you a letter prior to calling you. Federal law requires them to send you a letter about the debt no later than five days after their first contact with you. Sending the letter first ensures they are following the law and eliminates the surprise to you when they call.

You have the right to have the collection agency verify the debt. You must do this in writing and I recommend you send the letter via certified mail with return receipt so you have proof they received the letter. A sample letter from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can be found at

Though there is no federal definition of what constitutes a debt verification, the assumption is that if they can prove to a judge that you owe the debt, then that is acceptable verification. So you should receive one or more of these items:

A copy of the original, signed contract.

A copy of the charge-off statement from the original creditor.

A copy of at least one cancelled check paid from you to the original creditor.

Information from the creditor that ties you with the debt (the creditor’s name, an account number, the charged off amount, the current balance and the last four digits of your social security number).

The collection agency has thirty days to supply this verification to you. During this time period, the collection agency cannot attempt to collect this debt in any manner and they cannot report this debt to the credit bureaus (note the original creditor can still report it).

Some things you should do during this thirty day period:

Check your credit report to make sure the debt is truly yours. The original creditor will report this as “Charged Off” if it has been transferred or sold to a collection agency. You may also determine the debt is too old under your state’s statute of limitations for the collector to sue you.

Contact the original creditor to determine who they sold the debt to. They can tell you this information. If the debt has been sold numerous times, you will have to follow the “chain of title” to learn who the actual owner is. And if it has been sold numerous times, the chances of this collection agency being able to verify the debt drops dramatically.

If the verification cannot be supplied to you within the thirty days, then the debt is uncollectible. But if they do verify it, the debt is collectible and the collection agency will add this to your credit report.

7 Tips to Avoid Credit Card Fraud

Your credit card offers you access to a world of possibilities. It can not only help you in making payments, but it can also help you to improve your credit score. If you make the payments on time and use your card wisely, you can improve your credit score by leaps and bounds. However, if the card is misused due to negligence or fraud, your credit history and score can be severely affected. Hence, it is important that you avoid being a victim of credit card fraud.

Here are 7 tips that will help you to avoid credit card fraud:

1. Do not disclose your credit card info – You should never disclose your card number, security code, expiry date and other details of your card to anyone. These details can be used to make fraudulent transactions and so you need to make sure that no one has access to them. Even if you get calls from people claiming to work for your bank, do not disclose your card info to them.

2. Keep your card safe – It is very important that you keep your cards safe and away from the reach of other people. Place your cards in a bag or wallet close to your body so that it cannot be easily snatched away. If you use a purse, make sure that it is properly zipped so that the cards do not fall off from your purse. Also, instead of carrying all your debit and credit cards with you all the time only carry those that you need.

3. Be cautious when using your card online – When you use your card to shop online, be careful and make sure that you only use it on websites that are legitimate and offer SSL encryption security for online payments. If the site does not provide adequate security, your card information can be stolen and the same can be used for identity theft or for making fraudulent transactions with your card.

4. Keep a track of your account – Opt for mobile and email alerts to keep a track of your credit card account all the time. In case of any unauthorized usage of your card you can report it to the bank immediately. You can also access your account online through electronic banking and make sure that you are aware of all the transactions made with your card.

5. Keep your PIN safe – When you swipe your card at merchant outlets to make payments, you will need to provide a 4 or 6 digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) to authorize the transaction. Make sure that you do not share your PIN with anyone or write it on any piece of paper as it can be stolen and misused.

6. Shred your statements and other documents – Shred your credit card statements and all other documents that have your card information on them. Your account information can be accessed online and all other details will be available on your card. Even if you forget your password, user ID or PIN you can get them reset by contacting the customer support team of your bank. Hence, it is important that you shred all possible documents that include information about your card.

7. Inform the bank if your card is lost or stolen – In case your card is lost or stolen, call the card issuing bank immediately and inform them about the same. The customer support representative of your bank will then guide to you to get the card blocked so any unauthorized usage of your card can be avoided. The representative will also inform you about the steps you need to follow to get a new card.

Apart from the above, you should also ensure that the supplementary cardholders use their cards wisely and are aware of the procedures they need to follow to safeguard your account against fraud.

How To Remove Incorrect Credit Report Information After Bankruptcy

If you have recently declared bankruptcy and want to rebuild your credit, it is essential that you regularly check your credit report to make sure that all of the details are correct. In reality, everyone needs good credit. Even if you never intend on buying a home or a new car, your credit score will still impact your life. A bad credit score may require you to pay more for car insurance or cost you more for your monthly cell phone plan.

Likewise, a bad credit score could cost you a dream job. So, please keep this in mind when thinking about the time and effort it will take to clean up the credit report. If you have never attempted to clean up your score before, it’s not that hard, and we will make it much more manageable for you. It’s easy to become preoccupied with life and assume that all information reported is accurate, but this is not the case most of the time.

In addition to taking the time to view your credit reports regularly, you must also follow the correct steps to make sure that any false or wrongly stated information is rectified — otherwise, this incorrect information will still prevent you from rebuilding your credit and cost you more MONEY. This will really become important in the two years following a bankruptcy when you are trying to re-establish your credit.

Here are the correct steps to take.

1. Review your credit report thoroughly and regularly. To do this DO NOT use an online company like Equifax in order to view your credit report. Why? You might lose certain rights in order to comply with that company’s own rules (each company is different). Instead, write to and use the MAIL IN form to request your credit report.

Note: you MUST ask for your report in writing. Sure, it may seem archaic, but it’s the only really good way to get all of your credit information and not be taken advantage of by the credit reporting agencies.

2. Once you have your report, take a good look at it. Since you have declared bankruptcy, all debts that can be cleared should be cleared. Next to any cleared debts the note ‘zero balance discharged in bankruptcy’ should appear. If there is anything else written — anything at all! — make sure to correct that detail. The above statement is the only one that should appear.

3. If there is any wrong information on your credit report, write directly to the credit agency that has reported the wrong information. One again, it is very important that you do not take the easy road on this and email or call the credit reporting agency, this dispute must be submitted in writing. You cannot submit this information online or through an email because you may not be able to prove your case if they fail or refuse to remove the negative information. Why am I telling you to take the hard way? Evidence, that’s why. When I sue the credit reporting agencies, I need evidence. Without evidence, you do not have a case.

A Long Process
Again, it’s a lot simpler to ask for a credit report online and to submit things online, but this is not what we recommend. Even though it takes a while to submit information or ask for a credit report in writing, this is the absolute best way to go about this process. It’s important that you consider what you might be giving up when you gain information through any kind of private company, so keep this in mind when tempted to ask for credit rating details electronically.

A Qualified Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help
It might not seem like there’s a lot involved in declaring bankruptcy, but a good legal team can do a lot more than plead your case. When you select a bankruptcy lawyer, it’s important that the lawyer you choose helps you decide whether or not bankruptcy is actually the right course for you. In some cases bankruptcy is ideal, but in other cases it’s not the best solution.