Nothing can ruin your day like a call from a debt collector, whether you were expecting to hear from them or not. Bill collectors are pros. It’s their job to collect money, and the less reputable ones don’t even care whether you owe it or not!
If you’re not careful, you may end up saying or doing something you’ll regret – like paying a debt collector a small amount to “get him off your back” and, by doing so, extending the amount of time he can collect from you. That’s why it is essential to know you rights when dealing with a debt collector. Use our guide to figure out what to next if a debt collector calls. for additional information, please visit www.mcmf.net
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
A strong federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices. It applies only to outside, or third party debt collectors (not creditors collecting their own debts) and only for personal (not business) debts.
State laws may provide additional protection.
Every year, the Federal Trade Commission makes a report to Congress describing the debt collection complaints they received. According to that report, the FTC received 140,036 complaints about debt collectors—up from 119,609 in 2009.
1. Calling You Repeatedly To Annoy Or Harass You
Number of complaints: 54,147
The law: Collectors can’t call repeatedly just to harass you.
(However there is no specific number of calls that they can make within a given time period. That’s left up to the courts to decide.)
Tip: Keep records of when they call!
2. Trying to Collect More Than You Owe
Number of complaints: 10,614
The law: Debt collectors can’t charge more than the amount described in the original contract or what is permitted by law.
In other words, they can’t illegally inflate debts. But that doesn’t mean they don’t try!
3. Fail to Send a Written Notice of the Debt
Number of complaints: 32, 477
The law: Within five days of initially contacting you, the collector must send written notice of the debt that includes:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
- A statement describing your right to dispute the debt
4. Threatening Violence
Number of complaints: 4,182
The law: Debt collectors may not threaten violence when collecting debts. Period.
5. Threatening Dire Consequences
Number of complaints: 27,554
The law: Collectors can’t threaten a lawsuit, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, or to ruin your credit rating, etc. unless they have the legal authority to do so, and intend to do so. These threats are often illegal! Collectors must usually take you to court first and win before they can take these kinds of actions—if they are legal in the first place.
6. Using Obscene, Profane or Abusive Language
Number of complaints: 17,532
The law: Obscene, profane or abusive language—including racial slurs—is illegal.
Debt collector going overboard? Take notes and tell them you’ll be taping the conversation.
7. Calling Before 8 am or After 9 pm
Number of complaints: 12,871
The law: Collectors may not call before 8 am or after 9 pm (unless you’ve given them permission to do so), or at times you’ve told them are inconvenient.
8. Revealing Debt to Third Parties
Number of complaints: 13,568
The law: Collectors can call third parties such as neighbors, friends or co-workers only to locate the debtor.
When they do, they can’t reveal the debt and there are limits on repeated calls.
9. Calling You at Work After You’ve Told Them to Stop
Number of complaints: 17,008
The law: If you tell a collector not to call you at work to discuss the debt, those calls must stop.
10. Failing to Verify Disputed Debts
Number of complaints: 11,492
The law: If you dispute a collection account in writing, the collector must stop trying to collect until it provides written verification of the debt.
11. Ignoring Cease Communication Requests
Number of complaints: 7,343
The law: Consumers have the right to tell a debt collector, in writing, to stop contacting them. Once the debt collector gets that notice, contact must stop, except to send notification of legal action against the debt collector.
If you think a debt collector has broken the law, you can:
- Complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state attorney general, and/or
- Contact a consumer law attorney. You may be entitled to damages and/or attorney’s fees.