If you have fallen behind on your credit card payments and other lines of credit, you have likely received calls from debt collectors looking to recover the money you owe. Along with the stress of overwhelming debt, dealing with collection agencies can be frustrating and downright intimidating. However, as a consumer, you have rights, and you need to understand the things debt collectors can and cannot do when contacting you regarding back payments.
The federal government developed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the Act provides guidelines that collection agencies must follow when dealing with delinquent customers.
First of all, debt collectors can call you as long as they identify themselves as debt collectors. However, they should follow up their call by sending you a validation notice through the mail. This document should list the name of the creditor, how much you owe and the steps you must take to dispute the debt. If you do not want to receive further calls from the debt collector, you must notify the company in writing, and you should send your letter with a return receipt so that you have confirmation the company received your letter.
Debt collectors are not allowed to misrepresent themselves by claiming they are part of a government agency or credit reporting agency. Furthermore, they may not use any threatening, profane or abusive language when dealing with you. If they do, you could have grounds for a lawsuit against the company.
Collectors can call you at work unless you have notified them previously that they do not have permission to do so. However, they cannot call your before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. While they are allowed to contact others to find out information about you, such as your address and where you work, they cannot contact your acquaintances more than once, and they are not allowed to discuss any details regarding the amount of debt you owe.
While dealing with debt collectors can be challenging, if you have an attorney, the collection agency must communicate directly with your lawyer instead of contacting you directly. If a debt collector has violated any of these regulations, you should report them to your state’s attorney general’s office or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you already have an attorney, you should defer all communication to your lawyer, who will know exactly how to deal with the collector and will be able to protect your rights in the process.