When an individual defaults on a debt and the debt is purchased by a collection agency, the agency often has to go to great lengths to track the debtor down in order to request payment. Many unlucky individuals have found themselves harassed by debt collectors for a debt they do not owe simply because they happen to have the same name as the real debtor, or the collection agency has a mistake in its records. If this happens to you, you should be aware of the fact that legal safeguards are in place to protect you from a collection agency's false claims.
Write a letter to the collection agency as soon as you are contacted about the debt. Make the agency aware of the fact that you are not the person they are looking for and request a validation of the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) allows any individual who is contacted by a collection agency over a debt to request proof that he actually owes the debt in question and proof of the original creditor.
Contact the original creditor of the account and ask to speak to a supervisor as soon as you receive the debt validation from the collection agency. Explain the situation to the supervisor you speak with and request a statement in writing making it clear that the transferred account does not belong to you.
Send a copy of the letter from the original creditor stating that the account does not belong to you, along with a formal notice that the debt has been sent to the wrong person, to the collection agency. Provide a copy of your picture ID to the collection agency if the name on the account is incorrect, or to show evidence of a different middle name.
Meet with an attorney and have a letter drawn up threatening to sue the collection agency if your previous evidence does not result in the collection agency dropping its claim against you. Also demand that any evidence of the erroneous debt be removed from your credit report.
Contact your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission to complain about the false claims made against you by the collection agency. One phone call from the attorney general will usually be enough to force the collection agency to leave you be and pursue the correct individual.
File a lawsuit against the collection agency for a violation of the FDCPA if the false claims against you are not dropped. You do not need an attorney to do this, but if you do opt to hire an attorney, you can request that the collection agency be required to pay your attorney's fees.
When corresponding with the collection agency, never provide a copy of your Social Security number, even if it is to verify that the account in question is not yours. If you do, you may discover that the incorrect Social Security number on the account has been mysteriously replaced with your own.
Do not ignore collection letters, even if you know you do not owe the debt. A collection agency can still sue you for the debt and win if you ignore all correspondences and do not appear in court to defend yourself.