What is a “Scavenger Debt Collector?” A scavenger debt collector is a debt collecting agency who purchases very old debt for pennies on the dollar and then tries to collect the entire balance of the original debt. They will use many tactics in trying to lure you into admitting that this is your debt and that you will begin to pay it. They skirt very close to the line that is drawn in the Fair Debt Collection Act as to what they can and cannot do.
Some of the tactics that a “scavenger debt collector” will use include:
1. They will often tell you that they are a “litigation firm” and they are prepared to sue you if you do not pay this “old” bill that you owe. More than likely, they are not really with a “litigation firm”. They more than likely are not ready to sue. Sometimes they are but more often they are not. Question them a lot about this. Ask them for an address, a telephone number, the attorney’s name. Ask them if the company they are calling for is indeed a law office. More importantly, don’t let them scare you. ”Scavenger debt collectors” often work for a group of investors who have found out that this is a lucrative business and they will say just about anything to intimidate you.
2. They will get you to talking about the old debt in the hopes that you slip up and admit that you owe the bill. This is a BIGGIE!!! Never, never fall for this one!!! Admitting that you owe the old bill may start the statute of limitations running again on the bill. Yes, there is a statute of limitations on collecting debt that is written off and deemed uncollectible. Which brings me to my next point –
3. They will tell you that there is no statute of limitations on an old uncollectible bill. Yes there is a statute of limitations on old bad debt. Each state has one. Here is the link to a website that details each state’s statute of limitations: BCSAlliance. com. This will take you right to their site that talks about each state’s statute of limitations on collection of an old debt.
Why am I writing on this?
Some may ask why I have decided to write on this subject. After all, being frugal to me and my family is about paying off our debt, getting our credit report corrected, saving money, being prudent, and being very truthful about what got us into the credit mess that we are in. This is a subject that would seem to go against all of that. Well, for the past month, we have had one of these “scavenger debt collectors” calling our house. They are trying to my hubby to admit that he had a credit card from 1986. You read that right – 1986–twenty-three years (23) ago. This “scavenger” has called and said that it is his debt, that he owes it, that they are going to collect on it, and that there is nothing we can do about it. They have not offered one bit of proof about this claim. No copy of the bill. No copy of the original debt and the social security number or address that was used to open the account. Nothing. They have also talked to me about this debt, which is a clear violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Act.
He doesn’t remember if he had this credit card and during the late 1980’s he claimed bankruptcy and if he did have this credit card debt it would have been included in that bankruptcy. I can’t say that he had the credit card because I wasn’t married to him then. In fact, I didn’t even know him then. And there is the possibility that if this is his bill, he had already paid this bill before he ever decided to file for bankruptcy . He doesn’t have records and receipts from 23 years ago. Who does?
So here we are in the endless cycle of having the telephone ring at all hours of the day. They either have unknown name/unknown number on the Caller ID or they have Name Not Provided with the telephone number listed. After doing a Google on these numbers, it is for certain that it is this “scavenger debt collector” that is calling and letting it ring and ring and then hanging up if we answer. The last time the unknown name/unknown number called they left a message on my answering machine detailing who they are and the telephone number to call. So it is a pretty safe bet that the other unknown name/unknown number calls are from this same place.
What actions has my hubby decided to take in regard to this matter?
There are several actions that my hubby could take in this matter. He could just admit that this is his debt, but he can’t bring himself to do that because he cannot remember this debt. It could very well be someone else’s debt. There are 25 other people in our state with the same name as his name. Not one document has been given to him to show him that this is indeed his debt.
He could do nothing and hope it goes away. This is not a good thing to do because they will not go away. They will keep on calling and if they do tire of their little game then they will just probably sell it to another “scavenger debt collector” that is more ruthless than they are.
He could hire an attorney to get him out of this. This is the most expensive way to do it. It is the method that he is saving for last resort.
He could write them a letter and send it via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. This is the option that he has chose to do. Actually I wrote the letter. In my former job, I was a legal assistant and had written letters like this before and took particular delight in doing so. The letter is full of references to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Act and is three pages long. An original will be mailed to these “scavengers” certified mail as well as one sent regular US Postal. This way if they do not accept the certified and the second one sent via regular mail is not returned then they cannot say that they did not receive the Cease and Desist letter.
Please don’t get me wrong. My family does not like having any debt out there that may be considered a “bad debt”. There is a principle at play in this debt. To us, these “scavenger debt collectors” cannot just come into our lives and announce that this is indeed our debt and that we have to pay it without offering one bit of proof.
If you are in this same situation, please do your research. Find out what remedies you have to resolve this. Talk to a professional who deals with this kind of matter. Take up for yourself and do not let these “scavengers” bully you.
In the upcoming days, I will be posting the results of my research into the Fair Debt Collection Act. If you are in the same situation as us or are just interested in what your rights are as a consumer in regards to debt collection and you do not want to miss this post, please sign up for my RSS or email updates. It is a very important subject and one that every individual should know about.
Till next time,
The Frugal Housewife