What Do You Do When a Debt Collector Calls? Tips On What They Can and Cannot Do
Source: By Kalamazoo Gazette staff
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays out clear rules about what debt collectors can and can’t do — and it allows you to sue if you believe your rights have been violated.
Here’s what you need to know if a debt collector calls you:
Debt collectors can call only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They can call you at work, but have to stop if you tell them your boss doesn’t approve.
You can write to a collection agency to demand it stop calling you at home, too, but that won’t make a legitimate debt go away: A creditor could choose to note the debt on your credit report or seek a court judgment against you.
Within five days of contacting you by phone, the debt collector must send you a letter telling you the amount you owe, the name of the creditor you allegedly owe it to and instructions for disputing if you don’t believe the debt is yours. If you get a collection call, log the date on your calendar and start looking for that letter.
If you’re getting calls you believe are abusive, you might consider taping them. Most states, including Michigan, allow you to record phone calls as long as one party to the conversation (for example, you) knows the call is being recorded. A few states require everyone on the line to know. Check the rules before you tape.
Getting one debt collection call could mean you’re in for others. That’s because debts may be resold over and over. Or if a consumer demands verification, the account may be bounced back to the original account holder, who ships it off to a new debt collector. To protect yourself, keep copies of letters, logs of calls, canceled checks or other documents relating to the account — and plan to keep them for years.
If you suspect a debt collector isn’t playing fair, complain to both the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-382-4357) and to the [Illininos] attorney general.
You also can stop repeated or harassing calls by going to court [and hiring an attorney].
The FTC’s free Fair Debt Collection fact sheet is available online at this location or call 1-877-382-4357.
Debt collectors are forbidden to:
• Harass you or people who know you.
• Talk to anyone except you (or the attorney that you designate) about the debt.
• Call people you know for any reason except to locate you.
• Physically or verbally threaten you.
• Swear at you or call you names.
• Call you repeatedly (or call you right back if you hang up on them).
• Imply they’re government employees or work with government agencies.
• Say they’re attorneys, if they’re not.
• Falsely imply you’ve committed a crime (debts are civil, not criminal).
• Misrepresent the amount you owe.
• Ignore your written denial of the debt. (They need to show you proof it’s yours or assure you the matter has been dropped.)
Our Oak Brook consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
Our Joliet consumer lawyers provide assistance in fair debt collection, consumer fraud and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases we have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Chicago consumer protection lawyers who can assist in lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, consumer fraud or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here.