Being sued by a debt collector is confusing. You may receive a letter from a company you’ve never heard of, or from a law firm representing a company you’re sure you never had a credit card with. You may get harassing phone calls, sometimes many times per day, sometimes even at your work. The company might not tell you what the original debt was, or why they get to sue you for it now. It can be frightening and stressful.
Third-party debt buyers, companies that buy debt from the company that originally issued the card or the payday loan, are often going after low-to-moderate income communities, which in many places are very likely to also be communities of color and/or immigrant communities. The business (and sometimes the scam) of third party debt buying has been written about a lot, but this article from ProPublica makes clear the disproportionate impact these cases have on those communities, and highlights the shame and stigma of being a party to this kind of suit.
If you’re being sued by a third party debt collector, here are a few things to know: you have protections under federal and state law. The debt collector has to prove, in court, that they own the debt and this is often difficult – so don’t just not go to your court date. We help people with these kinds of cases, so if you’re being harassed by debt collectors on the phone or if you’ve received a letter that says you’re being (or will be) sued on a debt, you can call us. The Volunteer Lawyers Project runs a debt collection clinic at the Boston Municipal Court every Wednesday from 9am to 1pm. You are not alone. Help is available.
You can reach us at (857) 220-7175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.