When you’ve fallen behind on paying your bills and you’re strapped for cash, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Even worse is when debt collectors begin calling and hounding you relentlessly, something that can make a bad financial situation even worse.
The good news is that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act enacted by the federal government gives you quite a few specific rights, as well as giving third-party debt collectors specific rules that they must follow whenever they contact someone about repayment of debt. Debts like auto loans, credit card bills and medical bills fall under these laws, among others and, if you’re feeling the heat from debt collectors, the Top 10 Rules that they must follow (below) will most likely help you a lot. Enjoy.
Rule 1: Once you tell them no, they can’t call you at work. If debt collectors are calling you at work and you tell them clearly that this is unacceptable, they must stop calling.
Rule 2: Debt collectors cannot verbally abuse you. Not only can they not use threatening or profane language when calling about a debt that you owe, debt collectors are not allowed to falsely imply that a crime has been committed because you didn’t pay your bill.
Rule 3: Debt collectors are not allowed to call you early in the morning or late at night. A debt collector is not allowed to call your home before 8 AM in the morning or after 9 PM in the evening, unless you give them specific permission to do so.
Rule 4: Debt collectors may not call you continuously or repeatedly.
Rule 5: Debt collectors are not allowed to talk to your friends, coworkers, neighbors or other family members about any debt that you owe. They are allowed to call and ask about phone numbers, addresses or where you work, but they aren’t allowed to tell anyone other than you and your attorney about any monies that you might owe.
Rule 6: Debt collectors may not threaten to have you arrested, and they can’t threaten to sue you unless they actually have plans to do so.
Rule 7: Debt collectors cannot demand that you pay more money than you actually owe them.
Rule 8: If you send a debt collector a written request that they stop contacting you, they must honor it. Keep in mind that if it’s a legitimate debt it won’t go away simply because you ask them to stop calling and they actually can still sue you for any amount that you owe.
Rule 9: A debt collector must send you a written notice of any debt that you owe within five days of their first contact. Any notice that they send must also explain the actions that you need to take if you don’t believe that the money they are asking for is actually owed by you.
Rule 10: All disputed debts must be verified before a debt collector can begin to start calling again.
Knowing these rules and write that you have can help you immensely, starting with the fact that if you tell a Collector you are aware of them you will most likely stop them from abusing your rights or their rules right from the start.
If you are being hounded by a debt collector and they are breaking any of these rules, the first thing you should do is contact your state attorney general’s office as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the FTC. There are many state laws in effect as well to protect you from debt collectors who trample your rights.
You can also report any problems you have with a debt collector to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP / 1-877-382-4357.