Nobody wants to be in this position, but if you have a past-due payment, a debt collector may try contacting you. Even if you don’t have any debts, a debt collection agency may still try to contact you. Whether you believe you owe the debt or not, it’s important to know your rights and the proper way to deal with debt collection agencies.
Many times, unscrupulous debt collectors will call and threaten to garnish benefits from Social Security Income, Disability Insurance, VA benefits, and other funds. They may also threaten to place a lien against your property. As a result of these unfair practices, debt collection continues to be one of the most common consumer complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Bureau received about 82,000 complaints about first- and third-party debt collection in 2018 (CFPB).
Learn the right way to deal with debt collectors and how to stop them from calling.
Limits on Debt Collectors
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed a new debt collection rule on May 7, 2019 to limit the number of call debt collectors could make to no more than seven times a week. They would also have to wait seven days after a conversation to call again among other additional restrictions.
The comment period for the proposed rule was extended to September 18, 2019. It’s still being debated, but it’s likely that some version of the proposal will go into effect soon. Until then, the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the main law that limits the actions of debt collectors. The FDCPA governs debt collection practices and covers all debts except business debts. Generally, the FDCPA does not cover collection by the original creditor.
According to the FDCPA, “debt collectors include collection agencies, debt buyers, and lawyers who regularly collect debts as part of their business.”
Another applicable federal law is the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which covers how debt collection can be reported on your credit report among other things. There are additional federal and state laws that cover debt collection practices, so contact DebtBlue or your state attorney general’s office to learn more about the laws concerning debt collection.
Restrictions on debt collectors include:
- Time – Debt collectors cannot contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Place – They cannot contact you at unusual places and are not allowed to contact you at work if you have told them not to.
- Harassment – They cannot threaten or harass you through any form of contact.
- Representation – If a debt collector knows that you are being represented by a lawyer, they must stop contacting you and contact the lawyer instead. You can also specify how the debt collector should contact you.
If a debt collector is violating any of the above laws, you can report the collector to the state attorney general’s office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and/or the Federal Trade Commission.
Since many states have debt collection laws as well, contact your state attorney general’s office for information on any additional state rights you may have.
The Right Way to Stop Debt Collectors from Contacting You
You must write a letter. The CFPB provides sample letters to help respond to debt collectors:
These letters will help you obtain information, set limits, stop communication, and/or protect some of your rights.
If you contact the debt collector in writing to cease contacting you, they are not allowed to contact you again except to:
- Say there will be no further contact
- Notify you that the debt collector or the creditor may take certain specific action it is legally allowed to take, such as a lawsuit against you
Warning: Just because you tell a debt collector to stop contacting you does not mean they won’t pursue other ways to collect the past-due debt, including filing a lawsuit or reporting negative information to a credit reporting company.
Information Debt Collectors Are Required to Provide
If a debt collector contacts you claiming that you owe a payment on a past-due debt, they are required to tell you:
- The name of the creditor
- The amount owed
- That you can dispute the debt
- That you can request the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor
According to the CFPB, “if the debt collector doesn’t provide this information when they first contact you, they are required to send you a written notice including that information within five days of the initial contact.”
Receiving Debt Collection Calls on a Debt You Do Not Owe
First, try reaching out to the company you have issue with. If you’ve exhausted all attempts to resolve the issue with the company in question, submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Keep Careful Records
Keep records of all bills, records of payment, discounts, and communications. Keep a copy of all letters and emails for your records. Take notes from phone conversations, including the date, name of the person you talked to, and what was discussed.
Conclusion: Write a Letter
If you want to stop a debt collector from contacting you, put it in writing and mail it to the debt collector. Keep a copy of the letter and proof of delivery so you have a record of it.
Once a bill gets sent to a debt collection agency, people begin to feel panicked and rushed to pay the bill before damaging their credit. Don’t panic!
You can dispute all or part of the debt. You can also work with a debt settlement company like DebtBlue.
For personalized advice on how to deal with past-due debt and debt collection agencies, contact DebtBlue for a free consultation.