It can be scary and overwhelming when a debt collector starts contacting you about unpaid bills. With household debt at $12.7 trillion in the United States, this is a reality that many Americans have to face every day. However, there are certain things that debt collectors don’t want you to know about their collection tactics. Learn more about what they can and can’t do so you’re better prepared when they contact you.
They have to follow certain laws when they contact you
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from unfair debt collection practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the act, which prohibits collectors from using abusive or deceptive tactics to get you to pay. They can’t threaten you, make false statements, or misrepresent how much you owe.
For more on your protections under the FDCPA, refer to this article with common questions from the FTC.
You can ask them to stop contacting you
If a collector is relentlessly contacting you, you can ask them to stop. Send a cease and desist letter through certified mail with a return receipt. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t make the debt go away. The debt will most likely be reassigned to a new agency or law firm to attempt collection.
If calls are disruptive, you can also ask that the collector only contact you during certain hours of the day.
They can’t give information about your debt to family or friends
In some cases, debt collectors will contact family members or friends to get your contact information. While this is acceptable, the collector is not allowed to share details about your debt. If they do so, it could be a violation of your consumer rights.
If a family member or friend has been contacted about your debt, ask that they write a third party statement with details about the contact. They should include the date, time of day, name of the collector, and details about any phone conversation or messages left. Have this statement reviewed by a qualified consumer protection attorney.
You’re entitled to a debt validation
Under the FDCPA, you should receive a letter in the mail within five days after a collector contacts you. The letter should state the amount of the debt and the name of the original creditor. If you don’t dispute the debt within 30 days of receiving this letter, the collector can assume the debt is valid.
If you do dispute the debt, you can send a validation and itemization letter to request proof of the debt and a detailed itemization of how the balance was calculated. We recommend that any communication with the collector be done in writing and sent through certified mail with a return receipt. Be sure to keep copies of all correspondence you have with the collector. A consumer protection attorney can evaluate these communications for compliance with the laws governing debt collection.