A debt collection agency is in the business of recovering money that is owed on delinquent accounts. However, how they collect on those accounts is sometimes questionable. “I hear horror stories about people getting harassed by debt collectors frequently,” states Jana Castanon, spokesperson for Apprisen. “They are called names and threatened by legal action, and sometimes, they don’t even know the debt the collector is talking about.” There are things the consumer can do to protect themselves against these practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and explains consumer’s rights and limitations of debt collection companies. “Anyone who is being contacted by a debt collector needs to know their rights under this law,” explains Castanon.
- Determine if the debt is valid or not. You have the right to demand the collector send you a written validation notice within five days of your first contact with them. The notice must tell you how much money is owed, the name of the original creditor, and what steps you can take to correct the problem if you don’t believe the debt is valid.
- Know yours state’s statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time that must pass before a debt collector can no longer take legal action against you. Check your state’s Attorney Generals website for information pertaining to your state or seek legal advice regarding your debt.
- Take control of the debt collector’s communication with you:
- They can’t call you at work if you told them you can’t accept calls at work.
- They can’t communicate with other third parties except to try to determine your home address, phone number or place of employment.
- They can only contact you between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm, your time.
- If you have an attorney they must communicate through them.
- You can request the debt collector only contact you in writing or not contact you at all.
- Keep a record of the communications you have with the debt collector.
- Understand what the debt collector may and may not do:
- They may not engage in harassing, oppressive, or abusive behavior.
- They may not make false statements.
- They may not use unfair practices or threaten to take your property without doing so in a legal process.
Debt collection is a legitimate business and collectors have the right to collect on your debts. They can go to court to seek legal action against you which could lead to a judgment, garnishment of your wages or of your bank account.
If you believe that a debt collector is breaking the law, you need to report them to the FTC and to your state’s Attorney General’s office.
“Idealistically, everyone wants to pay their debts,” states Castanon. “However, sometimes life happens and it becomes more and more difficult, that’s where Apprisen can help. We can be a valuable resource in helping you deal with your creditors before or after they get into collections.”