A client found out the hard way about aggressive debt collectors making harassing phone calls and using abusive language. They would call sometimes three or four times a day. The client bought a fridge on credit and stopped paying when she lost her job. Collection agents said she owed $4,500 and threatened to seize her furniture and car and “send immigration to the house.” They contacted her neighbors and boss about her debt, all in violation of the law.
Attorney Sergei Lemberg, a recognized expert on Fair Debt Collection Practices has written an excellent article on this issue and we are featuring this article below. For more information click here: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
In today’s economy, it’s all too easy to get behind in paying your bills. For many people, simply juggling living expenses involves racking up more debt. To make matters worse, people with the best of intentions get crushed under the burden of mountains of debt, and then are subjected to calls, letters, and harassment by bill collectors. In these stressful times, it’s more important than ever to understand bill collectors and your rights.
Who are bill collectors? Well, there are two primary types of debt collectors. The first consist of those who are from the original creditor. So, for example, if you get behind in your Visa bill, chances are good that you’ll hear from collectors who are employed by the bank that issued your Visa card. This is your original creditor.
The second type of bill collectors are third-party debt collection agencies. These are companies that are either hired by your original creditor, or who have purchased old debt that’s been written off as a loss by your original creditor. When debt collection agencies are hired by a creditor, they typically work on commission. In other words, they get a percentage of the amount the collect. This is powerful incentive to put the squeeze on consumers for every dime they can get. When an agency buys up debt, they usually pay pennies on the dollar and actually own the debt. So, almost everything they collect is pure profit – another powerful incentive.
When a third party agency comes calling, you’re protected from harassment and other illegal practices by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA outlines a whole range of illegal behaviors and lines that debt collection agencies can’t cross. Aside from that, the FDCPA says that, if you ask for it, the bill collector must provide proof that you owe the money he’s asking for. This is extremely important for a couple of reasons.
First, debt collectors are notorious for trying to collect money that can’t be legally collected. Say, for example, that you have a bill that’s seven or ten years old. Chances are, the statute of limitations has run out and that bill is no longer collectible under the law.
Second, requesting the validation of a debt can buy you some time. The process of gathering the documentation and sending it to you can give you the breathing room you need to come up with a plan. The law says that debt collectors can’t continue to call you until they’ve established that the debt is truly yours to pay.
Knowing whom you’re dealing with and what options you have are important first steps in dealing with debt collection harassment.