Often, whether is is a lost job or other circumstances such as illness, bills piled up. With the huge interest rates credit card companies get away with charging, bills pile up fast. You may do your best to catch up but the bill collectors are relentless. They can be rude and call at all hours. What can you do?
Federal law prohibits abusive debt collection, defined generally as conduct by debt collectors where they “harass, oppress, or abuse". Specifically, debt collectors may not call you without identifying themselves. They can not call you before 9 am or after 8 pm. They may not call you at work. Unless you give permission, these calls violate federal law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act also requires debt collectors to stop calling if you tell them you want no further contact. If you notify the collector that you are represented by an attorney and give the lawyer’s name and address, the collector then violates federal law by ever contacting you and not the lawyer. Of course, your attorney has a duty to reasonably communicate. Within five days of a debt collection agency’s first communication with you, usually an annoying telephone call, they must send you written notice. The notice must include information such as the amount of the debt, the name of the original creditor, and your right to dispute debt’s validity. If you do not dispute the debt within 30 days, they’ll tell you they will consider it valid. If you do dispute, they must send you verification of the debt. In a 1995 case, a collection lawyer violated these rules and was fined over $10,000 by the court. The lawyer made up some language while trying to settle a debt instead of following the simple language of the law. Finally, the law requires notice on all collections that they are an attempt to collect a debt and that information obtained will be used for that purpose. So, be careful when handling conversations with debt collectors. Never admit to a debt without requesting verification and comparing the verification against your own records. If you get too chummy, you may admit to charges you don’t owe. Debt collectors may not make up fees and charges. Any charges piled on top of the actual amount of your debt must be included in your agreement with the original creditor. Collectors may not speak to third parties about your debt. And, collections must cease while a debtor is on active military duty. Now, I’m a big believer in everyone paying their debts. Deadbeats increase the cost of business for everyone else. But, in the words of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: “Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy."