I gather that you have been sued on a debt by someone who claims to have purchased the debt. If that is true, please take a couple of pointers from an attorney who has fought this fight many times.
1. Decide if the case is worth fighting. If you are just going to file bankruptcy anyway, why waste the energy? Go ahead and file. If you are on Social Security and/or pension and have no assets, then you are judgment proof. Stay home and enjoy yourself.
2. If the case is worth fighting, decide if you are going to make an offer. Try a 10% cash offer and tell them you plan to fight hard and file bankruptcy later if you lose. Be sure that you have the cash available. Money talks. Nothing else works. Never sound like you really want a deal, Sound like you prefer to fight.
3. You're right, they probably bought the case for 1-5% on the Dollar. That makes it easier to deal with, but far from a slam dunk. If you are collectible, and they sense a juicy target, then dealing may be hard.
4. You're right again, they do have to prove that actually own the debt. Most of the time these debts have passed through several owners. They MUST show a proper assignment from each owner to the next. Any break in the chain is fatal.
Be sure to check out exactly who signed each assignment. The person who signs the transfer MUST be a bona fide employee of the corporate owner of the debt assigned (not the purchaser). Many times the purchasers cheat on this requirement. They simply have the owner designat as a "vice president" a conveniently located employee of the purchase, even though that person is really the secretary of the purchaser and is not a true employee of the owner. Make sure that you get the address, employer and phone number of the person alleged to have signed the assignment. Then call them and see who answers the phone and where they really are located.
5. The person who signs the assignment must have actual, personal knowledge of the validity of the account transferred. Writing information down off a computer screen is not good enough.
6. After they prove that they are the owner of the debt, they must prove that you actually owe the debt. You can demand a copy of the account (showing how the amount alleged due was calculated) and the original contract (if there was a signed contract). They will have great difficulty producing this after all of those transfers. By the way, you demand all of this information through "discovery." You may have to look through avvo.com for the help available on that subject.
7. I assume that you have filed a timely answer to their Complaint. Now you need to do your discovery. Give 'em heck and expect that they will file discovery back against you. You can copy their discovery, make changes and turn it around against them.
8. Finally, an attorney would be real useful here. I know, you can't afford an attorney. But, can you afford to lose this case? Have fun and good luck.
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Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.