Action Letters — Tools for Consumers

Press release issued July 10, 2013

ACTION LETTERS

We’ve published five action letters that consumers can consider using when replying to debt collectors. These letters can help consumers get valuable information about claims being made against them or protect themselves from inappropriate or unwanted collection activities. The letters address the following situations when the consumer:

  • Needs more information on the debt:

    The first letter is for consumers who need more information about a debt the collector has told them that they owe. The letter states that the consumer is disputing the charges until the debt collector answers specific questions about what is owed. This letter may be useful, for example, for a consumer who may not immediately recognize the debt as their own or for those who want to find out more about the debt before they pay it.
    Download the “more information” letter

  • Wants to dispute the debt and for the debt collector to prove responsibility or stop communication:

    This letter tells the collector that the consumer is disputing the debt and instructs the debt collector to stop contacting the consumer until they provide evidence that the consumer is responsible for that debt. For example, consumers who do not want to discuss the debt until they have additional information verifying the debt might use this template.
    Download the “dispute and proof” letter

  • Wants to restrict how and when a debt collector can contact them:

    The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from contacting a consumer about a debt at a time or place they should know is inconvenient. With this letter, the consumer is able to tell the debt collector how they would like to be contacted. This may be a useful option for a consumer who wants to work with a collector to resolve their debt.
    Download the “contact restriction” letter

  • Has hired a lawyer:

    If a consumer has hired a lawyer, generally, the debt collector should be contacting the lawyer instead of the consumer. This letter template provides a way for the consumer to give the debt collector the lawyer’s information and instruct the collector to contact only the lawyer.
    Download the “hired a lawyer” letter

  • Wants the debt collector to stop any and all contact:

    Consumers have the right to tell a debt collector to stop all communication. It is important, however, to note that stopping contact from a debt collector does not cancel the debt or prohibit the collector from potentially pursuing other remedies, such as filing a lawsuit. This letter template could be beneficial for those consumers who feel they are being harassed by a collector’s communications.
    Download the “stop contact” letter

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These letters will clarify the claims that you have a debt. They may require that you be given a full accounting of information.  They DO NOT cancel the debt. As each letter points out “This letter tells the debt collector to stop contacting you unless they can show evidence that you are responsible for this debt. Stopping contact does not cancel the debt. So, if the debt collector still believes you really are responsible for the debt, they could still take other action. For example, you still might be sued or have the status of the debt reported to a credit bureau.”

If you are concerned that some old debt may be listed on your credit report. A search of Maine.gov finds the following from Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection:

Obtaining a Credit Report

A new law requires credit reporting agencies to provide any Maine consumer one free copy of his or her credit report annually.

This does not change the requirement for credit reporting agencies to provide a free copy if a consumer receives an adverse credit action or is unemployed and actively seeking work.

Request credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com

Print and mail request form (DOC format)

Remember: If you are making the request jointly with a spouse, each spouse must supply all the requested information, and both spouses must sign the request. In addition, if you are living at a new address or if your report has any “mixed file” issues, then the credit reporting agencies can write back to you asking for additional proof of your identity or address. In these cases, to save time you should include with this request some definite proof that you live at your current address, such as a copy of your driver’s license, a copy of a bank or insurance statement, or a utility bill.

When your credit report is sent to you, it will include directions on what to do if your file contains errors. You will be asked to mail your written dispute back to the credit reporting agency, and the agency is required by law to promptly investigate your dispute and remove or correct any erroneous, outdated or incomplete information.

We would suggest that any letter sent to debt collectors be sent certified mail, return receipt requested. You will have proof that the letter was sent and received. Do not rely on email or phone calls to verify your communications.

Debt collectors must be licensed to collect in Maine. The roster of licensed debt collectors is currently 86 pages long. If you need help with debt collection questions, contact the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection

Telephone: 800-332-8529 (toll free in Maine)
or 207-624-8527

TTY for hearing impaired: 888-577-6690

Maine laws specific to debt collection may differ from other states.

Fax: 207-582-7699

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