In a previous article I wrote about American Debt Enders and their “Debt Dispute Program”. It seems since that article went live, the company has done a bit of a rebrand. Now instead of calling it “Debt Dispute”, they call it “Credit Restoration“. And they’ve removed some of the more problematic claims from the initial page, and removed access to the several blog posts about their program – though the links on my initial article do still work.
In looking back through those original articles, there was a small detail I overlooked:
Note:(this article is based on researching the debt dispute program as laid out by Infinity Consumer Services, which contains some unique elements.)
And when I looked at the website for Infinity Consumer Services (ICS), I found that American Debt Enders had basically copy/pasted from ICS’s “Debt Dispute” program. So at least I know one of the sources of the fanciful claims I responded to in my original article.
But ICS makes their own fanciful claims about their program.
The right to dispute the accuracy of an account is indispensable to ensure fair business practices. Infinity Consumer Services uses a private third-party fiduciary to dispute the accuracy of accounting on our customer’s behalf. A third-party is used to maintain a level of privacy that corporate entities, such as Infinity Consumer Services, may not be able to provide as a registered business.
This third-party is called an authorized representative. The authorized representative acts on our customer’s behalf to dispute the validity of accounting as well as request other disclosures the debt collector must verify through the lender.
Do you really need an “authorized representative” to help you dispute your debts? Not really. As I stated in my original article, it just takes understanding your rights, a little initiative, and keeping your expectations in check. Depending on the type of person you are, it may be helpful to have someone on your side, but it isn’t necessary. Especially since the first leg of debt validation is handled entirely by mail.
But let’s tackle the second part of that second paragraph: “dispute the validity of accounting as well as request other disclosures the debt collector must verify through the lender.” As I’ve pointed out on this blog several times, what a debt collector must provide to satisfy validation under the law is actually quite minimal:
No provision of the FDCPA has been found which would require a debt collector independently to investigate the merit of the debt, except to obtain verification, or to investigate the accounting principles of the creditor, or to keep detailed files.Azar v. Hayter, 874 F.Supp. 1314 at 1317 (N.D. Florida, 1995)
[V]erification of a debt involves nothing more than the debt collector confirming in writing that the amount being demanded is what the creditor is claiming is owed; the debt collector is not required to keep detailed files of the alleged debt. Consistent with the legislative history, verification is only intended to “eliminate the … problem of debt collectors dunning the wrong person or attempting to collect debts which the consumer has already paid.” There is no concomitant obligation to forward copies of bills or other detailed evidence of the debt.Chaudhry v. Gallerizzo, 174 F. 3d 394 at 406 (4th Cir., 1999) (internal citations removed)
So the Federal Courts have already said that what ICS would be attempting to get from the debt collector is not information the debt collector would be required to turn over. Instead they’re required to provide evidence that
- the debt is valid
- the amount claimed is accurate (itemized details are not required to fulfill this)
- they have the authority to collect it, and
- the name and address of the originating creditor if you request it
If a lender and/or debt collector cannot verify pertinent information regarding an account, they may be in violation of consumer protection laws. During and after a dispute, collection efforts by debt collectors sometimes cease until they can provide such disclosures.
Given how little a debt collector must provide during validation, it’s easy for them to provide this information in most circumstances. Yes collection efforts must cease until they do, but expect them to actually do it.
Often, we see collection efforts come to a standstill until the statute of limitations for debt collection runs out.
I highly doubt it is “often” that ICS sees “collection efforts come to a standstill” long enough for the statute of limitations to run out. I’d be surprised if that has actually happened, to be honest. I’ve been through debt collections. Almost every time I sent a §1692g validation request to a debt collector, they’ve typically responded within 45 days of me posting the dispute letter.
Do not lead your readers and prospects into thinking that sending a dispute letter under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act will result in never hearing from the debt collector again. It never happens on debts that are newly fallen into collections.
For debts that have been sold off to other debt buyers, that’s a possibility. And it has happened to me. But that was also for an account with a balance of only a few hundred dollars. All the other accounts I had that fell into collections? Each collector returned validation.
The statute of limitations for collection on unsecured credit accounts varies from state to state. After the statute of limitations runs out in say 5 years for example, a consumer may have a right to challenge any collection efforts as outside the statute of limitations. In short, a creditor/debt collector may have missed their window of opportunity to collect on the account.
The statute of limitations does not, itself, stop a debt collector from attempting to collect a debt. It only stops them from going through the Court to enforce the debt.
After the statute of limitations runs out, you can tell a debt collector to stop contacting you. Only if they sue can you then assert the statute of limitations since it’s an affirmative defense to a lawsuit. And if you fail to raise it to squash the lawsuit, you can’t raise it on appeal.