Financial Literacy Month: What are your rights when debt collectors call?

Financial Literacy Month (1)

 

Even if you are fortunate enough to not be dealing with debt collectors right now, it’s good to know what your rights are in the event that debt collectors are hunting you down. If you want, you can read the detailed version of the <a href=”https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/plain-language/fair-debt-collection-practices-act.pdf”<Fair Debt Collection Practices Act</a>. I’ll summarize the key points of that 28-page document here.

This Act applies to all personal, household and family debts. An example that is not included is debt incurred to run a business.

  • Guidelines for debt collectors contacting you:
    • They cannot call you anytime of day, it should be 8am-9pm. Unless you agree that you can be contacted outside of those hours.
    • They cannot just call your job all willy nilly if you tell them not to do so. You can tell them verbally or in writing.
    • They can use any of the common communication methods: phone, email, text, letter.
    • They must not pretend to be someone else in an attempt to trick you or intimidate you. It’s illegal.
    • Collectors ARE allowed to contact other people to try and scoop your contact info. If you have an attorney, they should only be contacting your attorney. But they shouldn’t be discussing the details of your debt with other people.
  • Once the collector makes contact, they have 5 (FIVE) days to send you a “validation notice” of the debt they are attempting to collect with details of the amount you owe and how to proceed.
  • If you don’t want any more contact with debt collectors, you can terminate contact by submitting a letter to the debt collector telling them you do not wish to be contacted any more about the debt.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS DOES NOT ELIMINATE THE DEBT! It just tells them not to be contacting you.
    • After you send the letter they may contact you to let you know that they will no longer attempt to connect with you or that they’re going to take action, like suing you.
    • You can submit a letter to them if you do not owe the debt, and that should also stop them from contacting you.
  • The list of “You better nots” for debt collectors: if you experience any of this nonsense, don’t tolerate it. Immediately report them to your state’s Attorney General’s Office, The Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Again this does not erase the debt if you actually owe it, but no one deserves to be mistreated or disrespected.
    • Harrassment: no annoying you by calling all day long, no obscene language, threaten you or any third parties they contact
    • Lies: They cannot tell any lies about how much you owe or their identity, no trickery is acceptable. They should just do their jobm which is letting you know about the debt you owe and give you information for how to proceed.
    • Threats: if you hear anything about being arrested, or them taking unfounded legal action.

Have you ever had an experience with debt collectors? I hope not, but if you have comment below to let me know what it’s like.

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