Debt Collector Blues? Know Your Rights!

Debt Collector Blues? Know Your Rights!

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You owe money to a creditor and the heat is on. The debt collector heat, that is.

There is no escaping someone who is intent on collecting what you owe, but you do have some rights when it comes to how a debt collector interacts with you. Federal Trade Commission guidelines are outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a 1978 statute added to the Consumer Credit Protection Act.[1]

Your Rights

For the record, the FDCPA applies to personal, family, and household debts, but does not include business debt. The FTC explains that this act covers money you owe for the purchase of a car, for medical care, or for charge accounts. The FDCPA disallows debt collectors from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices while collecting these debts.

What rules must debt collectors follow? The FDCPA spells out six as follows:

  1. Debt collectors may contact you only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  2. Debt collectors may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves.
  3. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you.
  4. Debt collectors may not lie when collecting debts, such as falsely implying that you have committed a crime.
  5. Debt collectors must identify themselves to you on the phone.
  6. Debt collectors must stop contacting you if you ask them to do so in writing.

Written Notification

This list point is important as consumers can stop what they perceive to be harassment on the part of debt collectors. The operative term here is “in writing,” which means you must pen or type up a letter and send it to the debt collector. Send a certified letter return receipt requested through the United States Postal Service to ensure that the collector has received your request.[2] Once you get the receipt acknowledging same, those calls should stop.

Stopping calls from debt collectors does not absolve you of your responsibility to pay what you owe. You’ll need to make arrangements with the debt collector or creditor to make payments. You may need to retain the services of a debt relief expert to help you if you’re not able to come to terms on your own.

References

[1] Federal Trade Commission: Credit and Your Consumer Rights

[2] United States Postal Service: Return Receipt

Resources

MSN Money: 12 tips for negotiating with debt collectors

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Categories: Consumer Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".