What debt collectors can and can’t do

It can be frustrating and scary to fall behind in payments on your credit card or other accounts. When calls from collection agencies start, it adds a new level of stress.

 

Don’t panic! Learn about what collection agencies can and can’t do, and work to resolve your issues. The first thing you need to know is that there are rules in place to protect you.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, know as the FDCPA, which prohibits collectors from using abusive, unfair or deceptive practices.

The FDCPA considers anyone who regularly collects debts owed to others as a debt collector and applies to personal, family and household debts, including money you owe on credit cards, auto loans, medical bills and your mortgage. It does not apply to debts incurred running a business.

When a debt collector calls, they must follow up within five days with a written “validation notice,” which spells out the name of the creditor, how much you owe and how to proceed if you think you don’t owe the money.

You may want to talk to the debt collector at least to try to resolve the issue. If you decide you do not want the collector to contact you again, send them a letter. That will not resolve the debt or stop action against you, but it can affect how the collector communicates with you. If an attorney is representing you, the collector must deal with them.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has letter templates you can use when writing to debt collectors at www.consumerfinance.gov.

Send your letter by certified mail with a return receipt, and keep a copy for your records. Once the collector receives your letter they will need to stop contacting you. The exceptions to this are contacting you to let you know there will be no more contact and contacting you to let you know about taking a specific action (such as filing a lawsuit).

Kelvin Collins is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA Inc. For questions or complaints about a company, call (800) 763-4222.

DEBT COLLECTORS: WHAT CAN THEY DO?

CAN contact you by phone, letter, email or text message as long as they identify themselves as collectors

CANNOT pretend to be someone else, such a government agency or credit reporting company

CAN contact you at work unless you tell them you are not allowed to take calls there

CANNOT call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree to it

CAN contact others to find out your address, phone number and place of employment but CANNOT contact them more than once or discuss your debt with them (except for your spouse or your attorney)

Source: Better Business Bureau

 

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