While there may be any number of reasons a debt can end up in collections, there’s no reason you need to put up with debt collector harassment.
With clear rules governing the conduct of collection agencies and their representatives, we no longer have to worry about debt collectors harassing us with impunity.
The Federal Trade Commission regulates the debt collection industry and enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under the FDCPA, collection agencies are prohibited from certain behaviors and activities.
Knowing your rights under the FDCPA is your best protection against debt collector harassment.
Here are six simple tips for dealing with debt collector harassment and ensuring your rights are respected
1. Know the times and places a debt collector can contact you
Debt collectors cannot contact you before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. in your time zone. They also aren’t allowed to contact you at work if you’ve asked them not to.
Further, they can’t contact your employer except to verify your employment status, and they can only do that a single time.
They also can’t contact your friends or family except to ask for your contact information – and again, they can only do that once.
2. Know what a debt collector can and can’t say to you
Back in 2012, ABC News did a report on just how brutal debt collectors were acting over the phone, with one even threatening to arrest, kill and eat a person’s dog if a debt wasn’t paid.
The FDCPA has very clear guidelines for what a debt collector can and can’t say. They can’t threaten you or use abusive language, call you repeatedly, discuss your debt with anyone except you (and an attorney if you have one), claim to be anyone else or threaten to seize property or garnish your wages (a court makes those decisions).
And, thankfully, they cannot threaten to arrest, kill and eat your dog.
3. Understand what information a debt collector can request
A debt collector can only ask you about information pertaining to the debt they are attempting to collect.
They can’t ask you how much money you make, whether you own your home, whether you have any savings or any information about other debts you may owe. If a debt collector asks for any of this type of information, remind them of your rights under the FDCPA.
4. Ask for written proof of the debt
When a third-party debt collector attempts to collect a debt, they are required to provide proof the debt is yours.
They also must tell you how much is owed, the name of the original creditor and how to challenge the debt if you believe you do not owe it.
5. Ask for the debt collector’s information
When a debt collector contacts you, they are required to identify themselves and the company they work for.
They also are required to provide the mailing address, the name of their supervisor and that supervisor’s contact information if you request it.
6. What to do if you’re being harassed
If you believe a debt collector is harassing you, report the offense to the Federal Trade Commission or to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
You also have the right to sue a debt collector or collection agency if they have violated your rights under the FDCPA. You have a full year to file a lawsuit after the offense was committed, but be sure you have documentation to prove the harassment.
One more important piece of information to know about is the statute of limitations on debt collection. Each state has different rules when it comes to this, but most are between three and six years of when the debt became delinquent.
Check with your state’s Attorney General’s Office for the statute of limitations where you live.
Knowing your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can help you to avoid harassment by debt collectors. The better informed you are, the less likely a debt collector is to take advantage of you.
Let them know upfront you are aware of your rights and they can’t intimidate you.
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