When Debt Collectors Call, Know Your Rights

12 Mar When Debt Collectors Call, Know Your Rights

In 2006, debt collector complaints were up 21 percent from the previous year, according to Edward Johnson, chief executive of the Better Business Bureau in Washington, D.C. The Federal Trade Commission said it received 69,204 debt collection complaints in 2006, more complaints than the agency received against any other industry.

That number is expected to rise significantly once the 2007 figures are finalized.

With the slowdown in the US economy causing people to fall behind on their debts in record numbers, the debt collection industry is booming. And whenever demand goes up, employers need to dig deeper into the talent pool to come up with warm bodies to fill those call center chairs.

Translation: debt collection outfits are bound to start relaxing their standards when bringing on new employees. And when that happens, there’s a good chance that corners will be cut in training and standards of compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

According to the Better Business Bureau, your rights include:

– Debt collectors may not contact you at unreasonable times or places unless you agree, or at work if you tell them that your employer disapproves. That means no calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

– Collectors generally cannot contact you after you write a letter to the collection agency telling it to stop. The agency may still inform you if the debt collector or creditor intends to take some specific action.

– Collectors cannot contact your friends, relatives, employer or others, except to find out where you live and work.

– Collectors aren’t allowed to harass you. This means no threats of harm to you or your reputation, and no use of profane language. They can’t harass you by inundating you with repeated telephone calls.

– Collectors cannot make any false statements to you, including that you will be arrested. And they can’t threaten to have money deducted from your paycheck or to sue you, unless the collection agency or creditor actually intends to do so and such collection is legal.

If you believe your rights have been violated, speak with a lawyer immediately to protect yourself.

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Jay S. Fleischman is a bankruptcy lawyer with offices in Los Angeles and New York. He can often be found on Google+ and Twitter, where he shares information about consumer protection issues and personal finance.
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