Archive for September, 2009

Maybe.  It depends.    First, who is it that is sending you a demand for payment?  If its your cable, water, phone, or some similar bill, then yeah, you don’t need me to tell you that you should probably pay them.  Of course, you probably didn’t find this page while wondering, “Should I pay my water bill this month?”

If the demand for payment is from your landlord, a professional service provider, such as your doctor or dentist, or a credit card company, then the answer is, “Generally, yes.”   It’s important to review any statement included with the demand for payment.  Did you order the products and/or services listed on the statement?  If you didn’t order any products or services listed on the statement, or if the product turned out defective, or the service wasn’t fulfilled, you may have a legitimate dispute.  Begin by calling the original seller and explaining the situation.    Most of the time any dispute ends here.

But really, if you’re still reading, then you’ve probably received a letter from a collection agency representing a credit card company.  Or a law office representing a collection agency.  Or a collection agency representing a medical office or hospital.  Or some combination of those.   Questions you should ask yourself are:  Is this a legitimate debt?   And even if it is a legitimate debt, can I afford to pay the amount the creditor says I owe?

If you are certain you do not owe the debt (reasons could include the fact you’ve paid it off or it wasn’t your debt to begin with), you should dispute the debt in writing with the person or company who sent you the notice.   If you are uncertain whether you owe any debt, you should still dispute the debt.  The collection agency will (may) send you a validation of debt, where they identify the name and address of the original creditor.

But even if you remember taking out a loan or line of credit from that original creditor, and even if you can fully afford to pay the debt being sought, there may still be reasons to not pay it.   For instance, the time limitations for the creditor to initiate judicial action (sue you and collect on the debt in court) may have expired.  If you’re in a position where  a creditor has no remaining legal avenues to collect on a debt, are you just going to pay them some money to make it go away? Maybe you do, but its more likely you don’t. [You may be thinking that you have a moral obligation to repay your debts.  Maybe you do.   However, I am an attorney and am not offering advice as to what you are morally obligated to do.]

If you are unsure what your legal rights are with regards to a debt you may or may not owe, you should speak with an attorney familiar with the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act who will be able to advise you.