Running up credit has a tipping point that crosses over into financial fiasco, which can lead to anxiety and legal problems. Perhaps at first it was easy to put grocery shopping on a credit card, which was no big deal until months of letting debt pile up. When this scenario happens, you need to be aware of your rights as a consumer so that you can protect yourself from intrusive debt collectors.
Consumer Credit Protection Act
Regardless of the size of your personal debt, you are protected by the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968, which limits how debt collectors can approach individuals with debt. They cannot attempt to garnish your wages or interfere with your employment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1977 amended the law with more consumer protections.
What Debt Collectors Cannot Do
If a debt collector contacts you, they have five days to send you a written notice that includes the creditor’s name, amount due and an explanation what happens if you do not pay. You may then send them a “drop dead letter” through certified mail, informing them to discontinue contacting you. Debt collectors may not call your employer once you notify them in writing not to do so. Other prohibited actions include:
- Harassing you, your family or friends with verbal abuse or threats
- Continuous, early morning or late evening phone calls
- Trying to collect a debt larger than what you owe
- Threatening to get you arrested or sue you unless they are actually going to take legal action against you
- Contacting you at work when you have told them not to do so
- Telling your friends, co-workers and neighbors about your debt
- Claiming that they are attorneys or law enforcement officials
How to Deal with Collectors
Debt collectors have historically tried to trick consumers with various crafty techniques. If you believe that you do not owe money you have the right to dispute the amount by sending the collector an explanation letter within 30 days of receiving their written notice. Be aware that they must verify every debt that you dispute in writing before they resume attempts to contact you.
Understand that they may decide to take you to court. You may still decide to fight the case if you believe you do not owe the money. Be sure not to ignore a lawsuit, or you may be held accountable for the balance.
It’s important to keep yourself up-to-date with your rights and financial information.