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Feel Harassed By a Debt Collector? Know Your Rights When On A Collection Call

Have you ever been on a call where you feel that a debt collector has crossed the line? We hear this all the time at the offices of United Financial Counselors. We have put together some information that you should know when dealing with a collection agency.

A debt collector can call, text, or send in writing, collection letters informing you that you must pay for a debt you owe. Established in 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act restricts collection agencies from being harsh, abusive, or deceptive when collecting on a loan. How do you know when a debt collector has crossed the limit? Here are some steps and tips when dealing with these agencies.

Step 1: Before you do anything, confirm that the debt is yours

April Kuehnhoff, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston said “Consumers have the right to ask questions and get more information. I try to counsel people to slow down and feel like they can take the time that they need to discover whether this really is the debt that they owe.” Take a deep breath and verify that the collector has dialed the right person.

Step 2: If you can’t confirm the debt details or that it belongs to you, over the phone, then ask your collection company to send the details in writing. A debt collector must send you in writing a “validation notice” within five days of first contacting you outlining what you owe, creditor’s name and how to proceed further.

Step 3: If you reply saying you don’t owe the money, which you must do within 30 days of receiving a written validation notice, the debt collector must stop contacting you (unless the collector sends written verification of the amount you owe or there’s any other update).  For different situations, The CFPB offers a range of sample letters when dealing with debt collectors.

Things that are against the law for a debt collector to say or do to you:

Lie to you: Debt Collections cannot lie about what you owe or pretend to be someone else such as a police officer, an attorney, or credit-reporting company

Harass you: A debt collector cannot threaten to beat you up or do shameful acts to harass you

Threaten to arrest or deport you: The caller cannot say he will take actions that he doesn’t have the power to do such as threatening to take your property unless he has rights do so legally.

Call at certain times: A collector cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless otherwise agreed by you. They also cannot call you at work if you cannot or are not permitted to accept outside calls during office hours.

How to handle a misbehaving collector

Kuehnhoff says a debt collector should not cross the line of legality drawn by The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and if they do “that should be a red flag for the consumer to slow down, ask more questions, make sure that this is a legitimate entity.”

Keep a call log to track harassing collector behavior, keep a pen and paper with you when on call and jot down the time of call, the name of the person and what he or she said, the expert says.

Keep copies of letters or emails you sent to or received from the collection agency. This may help you to build a strong case, and you can certainly report your bad experience to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Remember, don’t give out your personal details such as your credit card number,  Social Security number, or banking information, experts say.

Should you need help with your credit or want information about your rights as a consumer, call United Financial Counselors (Florida Office)  at 954-372-4370 or our Connecticut office at 203-683-1590.

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