How to answer when the debt collector calls

Question: Recently, a collector called me about an unpaid debt from 2002. She threatened to garnish my husband’s wages by 25 percent and “1099” us when we file our taxes. She said we could settle by paying $1,500 immediately. I’m very concerned. This debt predated our marriage, so it should only belong to me.

— Ericka

Answer: The collector is way off base. A few choice words from you should send her packing and keep your past in the past.

First, it appears that you are being contacted by an agency that specializes in buying and collecting old debt. The debt is purchased for pennies on the dollar, so any amount that is collected is typically a win for the company. Sometimes these companies will use scare tactics in attempting to collect. And equally often they lack detailed documentation of the debt because it’s been sold and resold many times over time. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says that a debt isn’t collectible without written validation of the debt. If you ask for that validation and the debt collector doesn’t have it, then she must go away.

The 1099 form threat is a hollow one, too. A 1099 form is a tax form that is issued when a debt is forgiven. Debt collectors normally don’t forgive debts. They usually resell them at a discount. Threatening to issue a 1099 instead of turning a small profit gets the collector nothing and doesn’t make much sense.

As for garnishing your husband’s wages, you can forget about it. You weren’t married when the debt was incurred, so he is in no way responsible. His wages cannot be garnished.

I recommend that you either ignore the phone calls from the collector or explain to the next person who calls that you are aware of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Tell the collector that you will not be discussing the debt until you receive written validation.

More in Herald Business Journal

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Providence said to be in talks for merger with Ascension

The two Catholic health organizations have been exploring joining forces, sources say.

Hospital companies merge as insurers encroach on their turf

An anticipated deal between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension is only the latest.

DaVita to sell off medical groups including The Everett Clinic

Another round of health care consolidation means The Everett Clinic could soon get new ownership.

Engine trouble hits Air New Zealand’s 787 Dreamliners

A Rolls-Royce engine was shut down and was afterward found to be seriously damaged.

Washington, Amazon sue company over seller training programs

Braintree is accused of using deceptive ads promising information on how to make money on Amazon.

Lockheed-Martin dominates global arms sales, Boeing is 2nd

The combined sales of U.S.-based companies totaled $217 billion.

The Marine Corps’ version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is designed to land vertically like a helicopter. (Lockheed Martin)
F-35 fighter costs, $1 trillion over 60 years, draw scrutiny

Pentagon’s ability to repair F-35 parts at military depots is six years behind schedule.

Most Read