What You Need to Know About Debt Collector Tactics
If you owe a debt and have fallen behind on your payments, you may find that a debt collector has been enlisted in a bid to collect what is owed. Your creditor may turn to a collector if its own efforts have failed, a common practice with unsecured debt such as credit card accounts and other consumer accounts.
Consumers should know that there are certain rules that debt collectors must follow when talking with you. It is important to know what those rules are and the requirements debt collectors must follow. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is part of the Consumer Credit Practice Act, what prohibits abusive practices by debt collectors.
Debt Collector No-No’s
Debt collector behavior led to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, what outlines the many things a debt collector may not do when contacting you:
- Unreasonable calling times. Bill collectors are not permitted to call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- At work. If your employer forbids calls from bill collectors while you are at work, then those calls are not allowed.
- Personal identification. Debt collectors must always identify themselves as bill collectors.
- Be nice. No debt collector may use foul or abusive language to collect a debt.
- Be honest. If you owe “x” amount, then that is the amount the bill collector should tell you that you owe.
- Be ethical. Unless a debt collector is an attorney, he/she may not present themselves as one.
- Make threats. To collect a debt, bill collectors may not threaten you with imprisonment or seize your property.
- Legal forms. No collector may send to you a paper that looks like a legal document.
- Extra charges. Unless authorized, your bill collector may not add on interest charges, fees or other costs to your debt balance.
- Third parties. Your debt collector may contact your attorney, the original creditor or a credit reporting company solely to determine your location. Co-debtors, your spouse and if you are a minor — your parents — can also be contacted unless you asked collectors in writing to stop contacting you.
How to Make Debt Collectors Behave
You can make debt collectors behave by responding within your rights as per the FDCPA.
First, you can ask the debt collector to stop contacting you — you must make this request in writing. The collection agency may contact you to say that it has ended its collection efforts or that it intends to sue you for the debt owed.
Second, keep track of everything. When you encounter bad behavior you need to document what happened. In some states you may record phone calls without the other person’s knowledge. You can also ask a witness to listen in on the conversation. In any case, log each event for future reference.
Third, file a complaint. Notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of violation of the FDCPA. Visit the FTC Compliant Assistant and choose the appropriate category to log your complaint. You can also notify your state’s Department of the Attorney General and send a copy of the complaint to your original creditor and to the collection agency.
Fourth, go to court. For especially egregious bad behavior, you might want to sue the bill collector. If you win, your attorney fees will be paid. You may also receive punitive damages.
Debt Collection Considerations
Not paying a debt you owe can have serious consequences, so by all means talk with the debt collector and remain in contact as long as the conversation is civil. Your credit may already be deeply affected at this point, but your credit matters may worsen if the collector believes that you’re trying to avoid payment for what you rightfully owe.
See Also — Debt Collector Scams and How to Avoid Them