Media contact: Janet C. Hart, APR, CFEE (704) 927-8617 office
Consumer Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If you use credit cards or owe money on a loan, you are considered to be “in debt.” If you fall behind on a payment to your creditors, you may be contacted by a debt collector. The BBB has advice for what you should do when a debt collector calls.
“The BBB has seen a number of scams related to zombie debt collectors, online payday loan debt collectors, debt collectors trying to collect on debts that people don’t owe and more,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy.
“Consumer complaints filed with the BBB allege that debt collectors used threats to force consumers into paying their alleged debt, did not provide adequate proof of the debt when requested or continued to harass consumers after they were asked not to or told the debt was incorrect,” Bartholomy added.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are required to treat consumers fairly and are prohibited from certain methods of debt collection.
· are prohibited from harassing you or using false or misleading statements.
· may not state that you will be arrested for failing to pay, or that your property or wages will be seized, or that they are attorneys or government representatives.
· may only contact you in person, by mail, telephone or fax.
· may not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
· must stop contacting you if you write a letter to the collector telling the company to stop.
· must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money, within five days of initial contact.
· may not contact you if you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe the money within 30 days after you receive the written notice.
If you receive a call from a debt collector, the BBB advises you to follow these steps:
· Request written proof. By law, an agency should send a validation notice within five days of initially contacting you about the debt. Do not provide personal or financial information unless the validity of the debt and the debt collector have been confirmed.
· Research the collector and/or agency. Get the debt collector's name and contact information. Check the company's BBB Business Review on bbb.org, and verify that the representative who called is affiliated with the agency.
· Don’t ignore errors. If you have no outstanding debts in your name, contact any involved parties to clear up inaccuracies on your credit report. Write a detailed letter and include supporting documents to prove your case.
· Check for identity theft. If contacted by a collection agency regarding erroneous bills or debts, it could be an indication of identity theft. You can review your credit report for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com.
· Know where to turn. Report any problems with debt collectors to the Better Business Bureau, or the Federal Trade Commission.