Debt Collection: Your rights

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Do you have any recourse, if you think a debt collector violated the law? The answer is yes. The Federal Trade Commission says you have rights, even if you owe the debt.

You have the right to sue within one year from the date the debt collector broke the law, according to the 'Fair Debt Collection Practices Act'. But the debt won't disappear, if you owe it. If you win, the judge can order the collector pay you for damages suffered like lost wages.

The Federal Trade Commission has compiled a facts sheet for consumers on its webpage. Common questions like: can a debt collector call any time or place? The law says no: they cannot call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. They're not supposed to call you at work, if you've told them you are not allowed to take calls there.

Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt? Only to find out your address, home and work numbers. Generally consumer law says they're not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse or your attorney. But based on complaints to Call 12, some debt collectors toe the line and others cross it.

"There should be more limitations put on it as far as how many times a day they can call, how frequently they can call," said Adam Baughan.

Jessica McAllister says she got calls about somebody else's debt.

"They would call like late at night and on weekends so I just hit ignore so that I would not have to deal with it," she said.

"Once I didn't pay a credit card on time and they called a lot like every hour," Baughan said.

Just so you know here are some of the practices that are off-limits. F.T.C. says debt collectors cannot use harassment, threats or violence. They cannot use false statements. They are prohibited from saying things like: you will be arrested if you don't pay your debt. They cannot give false credit information about you to a credit bureau.

Other unfair practices include, depositing a post-dated check early, or trying to collect interest and fees in addition to what you owe, unless the contract calls for it.

Another frequently asked question: how to stop a debt collector from calling? The F.T.C. says talk to them at least once -- maybe you can resolve it. If not, tell them in writing to stop contacting you. Send the letter certified mail.

Again, it won't get rid of the debt, if you owe it. But the collector can then only contact you to say they're dropping the claim or see you in court.

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