Legal office: Debt collectors and you
November 1, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 1, 2012) -- So, you're behind on some bills. You had a run of bad luck, but you're trying to get back on your feet. Suddenly, your phone starts ringing like the geyser, Old Faithful, every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. -- it's the debt collectors calling!
So, what should you do?
First, you need to understand what the Federal Trade Commission is and what it does. The FTC is the nation's consumer protection agency. Among other things, the FTC enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This act prohibits debt collectors from being abusive, deceptive and unfair.
Next, you need to understand who is a debt collector. Well, it's the guy that keeps calling your house every hour on the hour, right? Under the FDCPA, someone who regularly collects debts owed to others is a debt collector. That means agencies, lawyers and companies who try collecting debts owed are debt collectors.
So, now you're sure the person calling you is a debt collector. You have choices. One option is to talk to the collector and try to reach an agreement. If the debt collector has his facts wrong, you might want to explain your side of the story. Maybe you aren't responsible for the debt and you want the collector to understand why you're not responsible. Should your conversation "go south" with the debt collector, then maybe it's time to send a letter ordering the collector to stop contacting you.
When you send a letter ordering the debt collector to stop calling you, make sure to keep a copy of the letter. Also, send the original letter by certified mail with return receipt. That way you can prove the debt collector received the letter.
The debt collector may still contact you to inform you that they are taking a specific action, such as a lawsuit. The letter will stop the phone calls and hassle, but the debt collector may still sue you in court for money you owe.
Some people wonder if debt collectors can call Family, friends and coworkers. The collectors may only contact other people, generally just once, and that is solely for the purpose of finding out your address and telephone number. They should not share information about your alleged debt with anyone besides you.
It's also important to know that debt collectors are prohibited from threatening violence or harm, using profane language, falsely claiming that you have committed a crime, threatening you with arrest, depositing a post-dated check early and sending you anything that looks like an official court document if it really isn't a court document.
If the debt collector is inappropriate when contacting you or people you know, make a report to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) and to your state attorney general's office (www.naag.org).
Finally, always feel free to come over to our office in Bldg. 5700 on the third floor and talk with one of the legal assistance attorneys. We're here to help you.