As anyone that has ever fallen behind with a debt payment will know, a debt collection agency can be relentless and often aggressive in their recovery. This can be challenging and stressful even when the debt is legitimate. When faced with action over an unpaid debt that was never yours to begin with, it can make life even more difficult.
The concept of “not my debt” happens whenever an individual is told that they owe a debt repayment to a debt collector or creditor, even if the debt itself has nothing to do with them. This might be due to an error on the part of a creditor, or it could be something more malicious. For example, there may be a debt on your credit report that was acquired through the use of stolen personal or financial information.
Incorrect information on credit reports should be addressed as quickly as possible, and it is your legal right to challenge anything you disagree with. However, in these specific cases, it can lead to malicious prosecution.
We will discuss all of these terms, their impact on you and your credit report, and how to address them with assistance from a legal professional from Bell Law, LLC.
Speak To a Bell Law Attorney about Malicious Prosecution Today
Debt collectors are never shy about chasing payments and are happy to contact you on behalf of creditors until they receive what they believe they are owed. Even when debt collection practices operate entirely within the boundaries of the law, it typically takes more than asking a debt collector to stop contacting you if you feel the debt is not legitimate.
It can be difficult to face it alone. Debt collectors typically have far more experience chasing debts than the average citizen in convincing them they are wrong. That’s where the attorneys from Bell Law, LLC can step in to support you.
We have the experience required to ensure that debt collectors comply with the law. We can also handle debt collector contact on your behalf and help you build a case, and even file court papers in cases where the debt evidently does not belong to you.
If you receive phone calls and letters from debt collectors and you want to dispute the debt’s validity, don’t feel that a partial payment or settling the full amount are your only options. Instead, speak to a professional from Bell Law as part of a completely free consultation.
We will work with you to understand the debt collection practices used, any evidence you may have proving you do not owe the money, and any actions you’ve taken so far, such as filing an official dispute letter.
If you are tired of debt collector calls and you’d like to relieve the pressure and take back control, call our offices today at 816-281-0649.
“Not My Debt” and Malicious Prosecution
When all is working as it should, a debt collector will work on behalf of a creditor to recover any amount owed. Alternatively, debt collectors may purchase debt at a discount, with any amount they recover considered their profit margin.
They can legally contact borrowers using any information submitted as part of the original credit agreement, whether that involves certified mail, frequent calls or even home visits.
But what if you receive this correspondence and think, “that’s not my debt”? People react differently. They may call the debt collector or original creditor, or they might start drafting a dispute letter. In an ideal world, debt collectors would pause their pursuit and any interest and work with the alleged debtor to rectify the mistake. Of course, this is not always the case.
If you do not owe the debt, you are within your right not to pay it. If the debt collection agency believes it is in the right and fails to secure payment towards the debt, it may take legal action. This might involve filing a lawsuit, requesting a court judgment, or potentially even garnishing wages, thereby intercepting money from your employer before it reaches your bank account.
Any negative information can impact your credit. In cases of wage garnishment, it can make it difficult to make ends meet. Without taking action, a debt that was never yours can have serious consequences.
Debt collectors often resort to legal action when they believe there is no remaining alternative to collect what you owe. It can be a viable tactic, but when debt collectors or creditors pursue legal action for a debt that is not owed legitimately, it falls into the category of malicious prosecution.
By taking legal action over an illegitimate debt, the debt collector may open themselves up to counteraction under federal law. Debt repayment is not the only area in which malicious prosecution occurs, but you have the right to challenge debt collectors who continue to chase a debt you do not owe.
Some cases can be more sinister than others. You may have a malicious prosecution case on your hands if a debt collector launches legal action on the basis of incorrect information. However, there is always a possibility that debt collectors may continue to try to collect a debt even when they know there are no grounds for it. This can be particularly stressful and is often done only with profit in mind, in the belief that someone may agree to pay a debt they do not owe to avoid further perceived repercussions.
Common “Not My Debt” Cases
As with most legal procedures, every “not my debt” case has a degree of nuance. Many people who struggle with the inherent stress of such cases do so partly because they are unsure whether they have a legal basis for a counterclaim.
Remember, at Bell Law, LLC, we offer a completely free, no-obligation consultation to new clients, so if you would like guidance tailored to your unique circumstances, call us now at 816-281-0649.
If you remain unsure, some debts are more likely than others to fall into this category, and awareness is a key part of protecting your consumer rights.
Car Rental Charges
Debts accrued without an individual’s knowledge are surprisingly commonplace in the world of car rental. One potential issue involves someone using personal and financial information belonging to someone else, often without their knowledge, to sign an agreement creating a relationship with the rental company. They might then either fail to return the car to the company, causing the arrangement to collect interest, or incur charges. Alternatively, they may incur additional fees and charges, such as parking tickets and vehicle damage.
Bell Law, LLC represented a client in a 2021-22 case against a car hire company pursuing malicious prosecution. Our client had rented a vehicle and notified the company that someone else would be driving. However, the rental period was defined in the original contract and extended at the request of the other driver without our client’s permission. Not only was the rental company’s claim time-barred when it launched litigation, but the case was based on incorrect information. We successfully aided our client through numerous counterclaims, including one directly addressing malicious prosecution.
Malicious prosecution involving loans is not always overly complex. In many cases, an individual once again uses stolen information to apply for credit. Upon receiving the loan amount in their bank account, the repayment record sees the real owner of that information held responsible for the loan being paid.
Managing debt can be challenging when legitimate, but being expected to pay back a loan or even a mortgage, having never benefited from the advance, can make for a particularly difficult dispute.
We supported another client in a 2022 case against a debt collector to protect their rights spanning malicious prosecution, defamation, negligence, and breaches of both the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
In another loan-related case, a Bell Law, LLC client approached a lender for a loan but, unable to clarify the fees associated with credit, decided not to proceed. However, the lender contacted the client a year later, alleging that they owed a debt. A further year passed until the lender contacted our client again, where the lender sent written notice of litigation over an unpaid balance of over $4,000.
Rather than a wrong amount or stolen information, this was a case of a creditor litigiously pursuing a debt they must have known did not exist.
Utility Bill Fraud
While many individuals that are willing to act outside the law do so in pursuit of cash, people should be on their guard regarding unfamiliar utility bill charges. People do not check utility bills and credit files as often as they look at bank or credit card statements, and fraudulently acquiring utilities can make for longer-term benefits for those that obtain them illegally.
They may create accounts with stolen information to use themselves or, depending on the utility in question, may be able to sell it on to others for profit.
Signs of Potential Malicious Prosecution
Once again, awareness is key in identifying and acting on potential “not my debt” cases. We would always recommend that people actively monitor their finances, including credit agreements and debt. The sooner a potential issue is identified, the smaller the losses and, typically, the easier the case is resolved.
If you are concerned that you may be a victim of malicious prosecution, there are three signs to look out for.
A Letter From a Debt Collection Agency Referring to an Unfamiliar Debt
Few people pay as much attention to their credit reports as they might, and the first sign of an unfamiliar debt may come directly from debt collection activities. If you receive certified mail from a debt collector referring to a debt or are otherwise contacted to the same effect, it is vital to take that communication seriously.
Even debt collectors that may operate outside the law will not guess blindly at outstanding debts. They must have some reason to believe that the individual they contact may owe a debt, and responding appropriately is vital.
It may be possible to address the debt before any further action. It might also highlight that something else is amiss, as it might not be the only debt taken out in your name.
Hard Searches on Your Credit Report
One of the best ways to avoid malicious prosecution involving a debt that is not yours is for that debt never to be taken out in the first place. Hard searches typically occur when a lender makes a final decision on whether to approve a credit application. As such, if such searches appear without your knowledge, it is a clear indicator that either a lender is acting improperly or someone is attempting to obtain credit using your score and information.
Even though there is technically no debt at this stage, it is still possible to take action, such as by placing a credit freeze on your reports with the major credit reference agencies.
Unfamiliar Accounts on Your Credit File
If you cannot catch a debt at the search stage, then identifying it before it becomes a potential legal matter is the next best thing. Knowledge is power in this case, and you can contact all relevant parties, such as the lender and the credit agency, to get to the bottom of things before it becomes a major issue.
Of course, the response might vary, but you can turn to the legal system to support you if you do not receive the support you require. Speak to a Bell Law attorney if you feel your rights are not being respected by anyone involved.
Dealing With Unfair Debt Collectors? Call Bell Law Today
It is important to act quickly if and when something seems amiss in the world of debt. A Bell Law malicious prosecution attorney can not only help defend you against debt collection claims but successfully file countersuits.
If you are still assessing your options, ensure you act in terms of gathering evidence:
- Ask for as much communication as possible to be provided in writing
- Ensure the debt collector provides a validation notice
- Save every letter and email you receive
- Ensure every email you send has a return receipt requested
This data can be extremely helpful when making your case, but your lawyer will work with you to fill in any gaps, ensuring a case that is as compelling as possible.
If you’re being pursued by debt collectors, but you’re adamant that it’s “not my debt”, our team is standing by to help. Remember, the initial consultation is always free of charge and completely without obligation.
We work with you from the outset to bring clarity and direction to your case. We take great pride in forming strong attorney-client relationships from the first meeting, ensuring we know you well enough as an individual to get the job done.