A junk debt buyer (JDB) is a company that purchases uncollected debts from original creditors. This may include charged-off debts; debts included in bankruptcy; debts that are past the statute of limitations; and the remainders of settled accounts. The difference between a JDB and a collection agency is that collection agencies attempt to collect debts on the behalf of original creditors, while junk debt buyers actually own the debts they are trying to collect.
Junk debt buyers usually purchase debts for only a small fraction of the original amounts owed on these accounts. But of course they will pursue debtors for the full amount originally owed, and sometimes even tack on their own outrageous fees. This can increase the dollar amount of the debt to up to several times what it was when the creditor sold it!
Does this sound like it should be illegal?
Well, unfortunately the practice of buying and selling debts is technically legal. But just because junk debt buying is not in and of itself against the law, does not mean all debts can lawfully be sold and/or collected. An obvious example of such a debt would be one that was included in a bankruptcy. However, these types of debts are still bought and sold all the time. It is not even unheard of for debts that have been proven to be the result of identity theft, to be sold to a JDB! And guess who they pursue for payment? Not the identity thieves, that’s for sure!
Not only are they frequently in possession of debts they had no business buying and even less business collecting, junk debt buyers are also notorious for employing abusive, unethical and/or illegal tactics to try to intimidate consumers into paying.
These types of businesses thrive only because most consumers are simply unaware of their rights. We are going to make sure that you are not one of those consumers!
Here are the things you need to know in case you are ever pursued by a junk debt buyer:
-Familiarize yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Junk debt buyers frequently violate it, and when they do may be liable to you for up to $1000–so document any and all violations!
-Keep an eye on your credit reports. Many debts will bounce from one junk debt buyer to another, and each time a debt is sold, it can reappear on your credit report, possibly resulting in multiple listings of the same debt. Also, JDB’s will often misreport the debt. For example, “re-aging” is a favorite (illegal) tactic of theirs. This means reporting a debt’s date of last activity as being more recent than it actually was.
-Junk debt buyers will often pose as lawyers when in fact they are not. They do this to intimidate you; don’t fall for it!
-Keep copies of ALL correspondence they send you. If you mail anything to them, send it via certified mail with return receipt, and keep a copy every time. Never throw any of this away, no matter how much time passes!
-Whenever possible, avoid speaking to them on the phone. You should only communicate with them in writing. However, if you do end up speaking to them, be sure to document the details of the conversation, and again, never throw your documentation away.
Also, do not give them any of your personal info. If they call your relatives, ask them to document the phone calls as well. Remember, if a junk debt buyer calls someone else regarding your alleged debt, and they already have your current contact information, this is a violation of the FDCPA, so make sure you have documentation of this if it happens!
-Never acknowledge that you owe a debt, and never agree to make payment, until the JDB has properly validated the debt.
-Tread carefully if the debt is within the statute of limitations and is for a significant amount and/or you have any assets that may make you a desirable candidate for a lawsuit. Most of the time junk debt buyers don’t want to bother with consumers who know and exercise their rights, but they may make an exception if they think it could be worth suing you. If you do have the financial means to pay the debt if necessary, by all means request validation for the debt. (If the JDB can’t validate, they will not be legally eligible to collect payment on that debt.) But if you legitimately owe the debt and you know you can’t afford to pay it, it may be wise to lay low and avoid raising a stink and drawing attention to yourself.
-In the event that the junk debt buyer properly validates the debt, try to negotiate a pay for delete before you pay it. Otherwise, paying it will actually worsen your credit scores. Always insist on a written copy of the pay for delete agreement before you make payment.
-Never give a JDB your bank account number, or credit or debit card number. If you do make a payment to them, never do so by personal check! Unscrupulous junk debt buyers are known for wiping out consumers’ bank accounts after the consumer sends payment in the form of a personal check–they take the checking account number right off the check and withdraw as much money as they please without the consumer’s consent. It can take weeks or months for the victims to get their money back, if they get it back at all. Protect yourself by making payments via money order only, and always keep a copy for at least a few years.
-If you are pursued for a debt that is past the statute of limitations, do not make a payment; doing so would reset the statute of limitations, which you do not want! In this case, send a debt validation request and a statute of limitations dispute letter. If the debt is over 7 years old, check your credit reports to make sure it is not being reported by the JDB (or anyone else). If it is, dispute the listing with the credit bureaus.
So there you have it…I hope you never have the misfortune of having to deal with a junk debt buyer, but if you do, now you’ll be ready for them!