The best method to avoid problems with debt collectors is to avoid debt problems (Create Your Cash Reserve – use your credit card responsibly – Buy less stuff). But if you do run into problems and get stuck dealing with debt collectors in addition to the financial trouble you may find yourself very frustrated and stressed. The Fair Debt Collection resource of the Federal Trade Commission provides useful information:
Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, debt collectors may not:
- use threats of violence or harm
- publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau)
- use obscene or profane language; or repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone
Debt collectors may not use any false or misleading statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not:
- falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives
- falsely imply that you have committed a crime
- falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau
- misrepresent the amount of your debt
- indicate that papers being sent to you are legal forms when they are not
- indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they are
Why is such a resource needed? Because many debt collectors have behaved unethically and illegally. To file a complaint use that link or call toll-free, 1-877-382-4357.
the Commission receives more complaints about the debt collection industry than any other specific industry.
Don’t ignore calls or written communications from collectors. “As long as the collector is not being abusive, it’s a good idea to communicate with the collector because if you don’t owe the money, you’ll be able to convince the collector to go away,” Kane said. “If you do owe the money, you may be able to work out some partial payment or long-term payment, which you may not be able to do if you don’t maintain some line of communication with the collector.”
You have the right to send a debt collector written notice to cease communications in connection with the debt or you may send written notice that you refuse to pay it. You must send the notice directly to the debt collector instead of to the creditor.