Do you get harassment calls from debt collectors? Do they threaten to take you to court, have you arrested, or garnish your wages?
The Better Business Bureau gets calls every day from consumers who are dealing with questionable collection agencies. This week the Federal Trade Commission announced the first coordinated federal-state enforcement initiative targeting deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. This is a crackdown against collectors who use illegal tactics such as harassing phone calls and false threats of litigation, arrest, and wage garnishment. The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offer the following information on fair collection practices:
Debt collectors may not contact you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., unless you agree to alternative times. They may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax; however, they may NOT contact you by postcard.
Consumers can communicate with collectors via their personal email if they so choose. This may help to reduce the number of phone calls and allow consumers to maintain better records of their interactions with debt collectors. If a consumer wants email communication, they must put it in writing to the debt collection agency.
You may stop a collections agency from contacting you at work by sending a registered or certified letter with the request. Once the agency receives your letter, it may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact, or to notify you if they intend to take a specific action.
Collectors must send a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe and the name of the creditor that you owe the money to. If you believe the company contacted you in error, you must write within 30 days after the initial contact; upon receipt of your letter, the company must cease collection activities. If the company can provide proof of the debt such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed, the company may renew collection proceedings.
Debt collectors may not:
1. Use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation
2. Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau)
3. Use obscene or profane language
4. Use phone calls to repeatedly harass you
5. Fail to identify themselves on the telephone as a debt collector
6. Advertise the debt
7. Indicate that actions such as a lawsuit will be taken against you, which legally may not be taken, or which they do not intend to take
8. Collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law
9. Take a payment arrangement prematurely
10. Use false, deceptive or misleading statements when collecting a debt.
For more information go to bbb.org or ftc.gov.