Debt Collection And The Law: Know Your Rights

If you owe money to a debt collection agency or debt collector, you need to know what they can and cannot do in order to collect monies owed to them. You have an obligation to pay what you owe, and the debt collectors have an obligation to follow the law and not harass you at home or at work.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to those who collect debts owed to creditors for personal, family and household debts. These include car loans, mortgages, charge accounts and money owed for medical bills. A debt collector is someone hired to collect money you owe.

Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you don’t owe the money.

If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment.

If you believe you don’t owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency with a letter telling them not to contact you. A debt collector may not:

Contact you at unreasonable times, for example, before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree;

Contact you at work if you tell the debt collector your employer disapproves;

Contact you after you write a letter telling them to stop—except to notify you if the collector or creditor plans to take a specific action;

Contact your friends, relatives, employer or others—except to find out where you live and work;

Harass you through threats to harm you, profane language or repeated telephone calls;

Make any false statement, or claim that you will be arrested; or

Threaten to have money deducted from your paycheck or to sue you—unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so and it is legal.

You have a responsibility to pay off any debt that you owe. Debt collection agencies also have a responsibility to treat their customers with respect and follow the law.

If you are being harassed by a debt collection agency, contact the authorities and report them.

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