How do I respond to an initial debt collector demand letter when I do not have the money they say I owe and I am not sure I even owe it?

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How do I respond to an initial debt collector demand letter when I do not have the money they say I owe and I am not sure I even owe it?

A subscription service a year ago said I verbally authorized magazine subscriptions on the phone. They had a “recording” they said was my voice. I told them to cancel it and they refused; I called the magazine company and they agreed to stop sending them. My bank investigated but did not indicate a finding of fraud to me. I changed my debit card that the company somehow had access to. This company has both my first and last name misspelled and I think I was somehow scammed. I can request in writing a “verification or copy of a judgment” within 30 days. What should I do?

Asked on September 2, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Okay first, calm down.  Two things need to be figured out here.  First, you need to figure out if they have in fact sued you and gotten a judgement.  Because if they have then there is a whole different road that you need to travel down here.  I am going to assume, for the sake of this question, that they have not.  So what you need to do is to demand that the debt collector validate the debt.  You write a letter to them requesting certain information to prove that you do indeed owe the debt.

  • Proof that the collection company owns the debt/or has been assigned the debt.  This is basic contract law. It is very difficult to get a judgment without a direct contract between collection agency and the original creditor.
  • At a minimum, some account statements from the original creditor. If you really want to get sticky, you can pin them down on the amount of the debt by requiring complete payment history, starting with the original creditor.  This was was established by the case Fields v. Wilber Law Firm, Donald L. Wilber and Kenneth Wilber, USCA-02-C-0072, 7th Circuit Court, Sept 2004..
  • Copy of the original signed loan agreement or credit card application or in your case, a copy of the recording they say they have. However, account statements from the original can fulfill these requirements.
  • If they can not provide the validation they can not collect.  Let them know that if they fail to provide this information with in 30 days and they continue to harass you you will be seeking legal counsel.  I would also report them to the state attorney general's office consumer fraud division.  You did not order the magazine.  They are stealing money from your account.  This is a scam.  Good luck.


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