Being in debt is stressful enough without having collection agencies harassing you at all hours of the day and making you feel like a criminal. If you are in debt and late on your payments, you are probably quite overwhelmed and may think that the collection agency is right in harassing you. However, that is not the case and you have rights.
Know The Rules
There is legislation called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that exists to protect you from the unethical practices of collection agencies. It is easy to be intimidated by debt collectors, especially when you feel like you are in the wrong because your payments are late, but you still have rights.
- You can always hang up the phone. You are not required to speak to a debt collector on the phone, and there is no penalty for hanging up. Debt collectors are only allowed to call you between 8:00am and 9:00pm, so if you receive calls at any other hour, know that they are illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Put it in writing. You can issue a request to your debt collection agency telling them to stop calling you. You will still receive correspondence and bills in the mail, but they will not be allowed to call you if you submit a written request asking them to stop. Send your request through registered mail so that you receive delivery confirmation and there is no way the debt collectors can claim they never got your letter. Make a copy of your letter before you send it so that you have it on file.
- Report any misconduct. If you feel harassed or intimidated, or if your request for no more phone calls is ignored, you can report the debt collection agency that is bothering you. Contact your state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov to file a complaint.
- If you feel that your rights as a consumer has been violated, you can seek legal action. You can receive financial compensation for every call that violates the Fair Credit Act.
If you do receive calls from a collection agency, make sure that they are legitimate. There are plenty of scams out there that prey on people who are in debt by demanding payment for loans that don’t actually exist, otherwise known as zombie debt. They sometimes succeed, because amidst the stress of debt and daily life, people can become distracted and can be fooled into paying money to a fraudulent agency that they don’t actually owe money to. Make sure you know who you are dealing with, and verify that it is the right person or agency.