RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If you are the victim of constant aggressive debt collection calls, you do have rights. If the harassing calls don't stop and debt collectors are violating the law, they could end up owing you money.
Many Americans are overwhelmed with debt and are being flooded with calls from debt collectors. While you may owe the money, attorney's we talked to say there is a legal and an illegal way to try and collect the money.
Like many Americans, William Brewer fell on hard times and got behind on his bills, not soon after the Debt Collectors started calling. Things got so bad, he was thinking of extreme measures.
"The crazy thing. I am sitting here telling my mom, 'mom should I go out and rob somebody?' She says 'oh Lord, no, pray', and I am going they want get off my back," he said.
John Bennett, with Clear Point Financial Services says Brewer is not alone; more people are coming to organizations like his for help.
"We have seen job loss, reduction income, people don't know how to manage their money in tough times," Brewer said.
Brewer says he got behind on his cell phone bill it topped a $1,000. He says the harassing collectors were relentless.
"Even on Sunday's, I was like 'gees, on God's day they call,'" he said. Brewer's Landlord got sick of the calls and put him out.
When he tried to explain his financial situation -- the aggressive debt collectors didn't want to hear it.
"It was at the point they even called and I said look, jobs are not that great right now and they said you need to come up here and work, you need to get out and do something," Brewer said.
In the act of desperation, Brewer went to the Internet looking for help. He stumbled on The Consumer Law Group and Attorney John Gayle.
"Once I get involved, the harassment stops," Gayle said.
Gayle says many consumers don't realize they have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The law is set up to protect you from aggressive tactics.
"Calling people names, verbal abuse, threats of imprisonment, calling third parties who are not involved in it," he said.
The law limits when and how often debt collectors can call. Gayle says there is also a statue of limitations on re-payment of a debt -- five years from the date of default on written contracts, and three years for unwritten.
"In other words, it is so old they can't pursue this debut in further legally," he said. If it's proven the debt collectors broke the law they could actually end up paying you a thousand dollars or more.
"I had one client who lost her hair because of all the calls so on top of the damages of a statutory one thousand dollars you can get actual damages," said Gayle.
Brewer now has a job and the collectors have stopped calling. From now on, he's hoping future calls are only from family and friends.
"My intention is to pay all my bills. I want to get my credit back on line and my life back online and everything else," Brewer said.
Remember, while there are limitations, it's not against the law for debt collectors to call you -- and if you don't pay they can take legal action against you, but can not threaten legal action unless they actually plan to follow through.