Written by attorney Mark Michael Campanella

How to Fight an Unfounded Debt Collection Action

Whether it’s a sign of these uncertain economic times or something more is unclear, but one thing is certain: creditors, especially those holding credit card debts, are currently pursuing their rights like there’s no tomorrow. More and more debtors are finding themselves harassed by collection agents or involved in a suit attempting to collect a debt. Even though a creditor may have commenced an action against you, that does not, however, mean that the debt is legitimate for any number of reasons. If you are one of those on the receiving end of a legal summons, it is imperative that you protect your rights.

The statistics are staggering, showing that more than 90 percent of the judgments on these credit card debts are secured by default. The lesson is a simple one – if you don’t show up to fight, you can’t win. That is lesson number one. If you receive a notice, do not ignore it! You need to file a response or a default judgment may be taken against you.

My second recommendation in fighting a bogus suit is to secure a litigation attorney who handles collection work on behalf of debtors. Even if you cannot afford counsel, try to take advantage of resources available to you through the local bar association as you may find assistance there if you qualify. If there is no help to be found, defend the suit yourself, even if just relative to the amount owed. Courts are sympathetic and understand the burden of proof a creditor must meet.

Third, be sure to verify the debt and the amount claimed. Even if the debt is yours, the amount you actually owe may be vastly different than what is owed, so be sure to check your own records. Debtors often find that companies have added on additional fees that were never part of the original agreement. Given how often these debts get bundled, resold and change hands, records substantiating these fees, and even principal, are not available. It is the creditor’s job to prove the amount at issue; if it can’t, the case may be dismissed or the amount due deemed considerably less.

If there is any question as a debt’s authenticity, the same logic holds true. The creditor must prove his case. That said, be sure to secure a copy of the opening paperwork for the account. This will tell you not only whether the debt is yours by reviewing the opening signature, but also whether you are potentially a victim of identity theft. If the creditor does not have this opening paperwork, it may have a very difficult time demonstrating the debt is yours.

Just because you’ve been sued, do not feel helpless and certainly do not give in if the debt is not yours. You have options, so be sure to explore them.

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