Debt collection and it’s collectors are regulated by the U.S. Fair Debt and Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). These regulations disallow a collector from “harassing, threatening, and lying” to the person from whom they are attempting to collect a debt. As too many people have discovered, this is not always or usually the case.
What Collectors Cannot Do
- Say they are representing an attorney.
- Tell you that legal action will be filed against you.
- Call before 8:00 AM and after 9:00 PM in the time zone where the debt is located. In other words, if you have given your mobile/cell phone number and happen to be traveling outside of your time zone, the time zone where you live – not where you are – must meet these time restrictions.
- Use obscene language and/or shout at you.
- Call repeatedly to annoy or harass you.
- Talk about your debt with anyone (such as a relative).
- Inaccurately tell you the amount you owe.
- Call you at work if you inform them that your employer does not allow you to take such calls.
What Collectors Must Do
- Give you written verification of the debt upon your request.
- Stop calling you if you notify them in writing that you do not want them to contact you. It’s important that this request be sent as certified mail with delivery confirmation.
- Within five days of contacting you, disclose the name of the creditor, the amount owed, and how you can dispute the bill.
Contact at Work
One of the most frustrating situations is when the collector gets a hold of your work information. The minute the collector does this, you need to follow the procedure above to notify the collector via a written request to cease communication via phone. Otherwise, you may fall prey to some rather unwanted tactics. For example, if your company has an automated phone system, the collector can search for your extension by name. Taking it one step further, the collector can (and often does) send mail to your work address, making it obvious to anyone who sees the envelope that a debt is in collection.
Another advantage to a collector contacting you at work is knowing you do, in fact, have the means to pay (since you have a job). Thus, using the “I have no money,” Remember: the goal is to collect money (and reach their quota). They don’t care that you have other expenses such as rent /mortgage, utilities, groceries, medical bills, prescriptions, etc. That’s not their problem. In addition, when they call you at work and you have no privacy, it becomes hard to explain your situation without your coworkers, manager, etc. hearing the conversation.
Knowing the do’s and don’ts of collection practices is the best way to protect yourself from the awful world of debt collection. If you owe the money, you owe the money. Yet, it’s not necessary for someone to treat you as if you’re wanted by the law even over something as small as a $100 credit card bill.