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I suggest attempting to settle the debt before they obtain a court judgment. Once a judgment is obtained, the creditor will likely be unwilling to negotiate a settlement and may place liens on property or garnish wages. If a debtor negotiates a settlement, it is best to get a full release of claims at the same time so that the creditor can't later come after the rest of the debt they claim. I suggest contacting your insurer, they typically require the provider not to bill for an amount greater than what charges the insurer agrees to. Please also see the contact information for the ombudsman below.
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed. Section 809(a) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires a collector, within 5 days of the first communication, to provide the consumer a written notice (if not aleady provided in that communication) containing
(1) the amount of the debt and
(2) the name of the creditor, along with a statement that he will
(3) assume the debt's validity unless the consumer disputes it within 30 days,
(4) send a verification or copy of the judgment if the consumer timely disputes the debt, and
(5) identify the original creditor upon written request.
If the consumer disputes the debt or requests identification of the original creditor in writing, the collector must cease collection efforts until he verifies the debt and mails a response.
If a debt collector violates the law, you can write a letter concerning the activity to the nearest office of the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a federal or state lawsuit against the debt collector for violation of the law, although there is usually a 1-year "statute of limitations." That means you have to file the lawsuit within 1 year of the violation to recover the actual damages that you've suffered. You can also recover up to a $1,000 in an individual lawsuit or $5,000 in a class-action lawsuit for each violation, plus attorney fees and costs.
If there is inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report:
-Contact both the credit reporting agency (CRA) and the company that provided the information to the credit reporting agency.
-Tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate.
Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the information provider is required to investigate and report the results to the CRA. If the information is found to be incorrect, it must notify all nationwide CRAs to correct your file. If the investigation does not solve your dispute, ask that your statement concerning the dispute be included in your file. A notice of your dispute must be included anytime the CRA reports the negative item.
The following is from the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act:
§ 809. Validation of debts [15 USC 1692g]
(a) Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing --
(1) the amount of the debt;
(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and
(5) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
(b) If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.
(c) The failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt under this section may not be construed by any court as an admission of liability by the consumer.