Avoid Harassment and Headaches When Dealing With Debt Collectors

There was a time when debt collectors used very harassing means to collect debts-yelling at people from outside their homes (so that anyone in the vicinity could hear), threatening to send them to jail, threatening violence, or calling at odd hours in the night. The methods were crude, but effective. Today those techniques, and many others, are illegal, thanks to the Federal Trade Commission and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Although the enforcement of this law has stopped many of the worst forms of debt collection from being practiced, there are still some debt collectors who use techniques that may be illegal. Anyone who has encountered a debt collector should be aware of their rights under the law:

  • Debt collectors may not contact anyone else about your debt without your consent. They also may not contact you by postcard (which could be read by someone else).
  • Debt collectors must send you a written notice within five days of contacting you, stating how much money is owed and to whom it is owed, along with information on what to do if you believe you do not owe the money.
  • Debt collectors must not misrepresent themselves as government agents, send you anything that looks like a government document if it isn't, or use a false company name.
  • Similarly, they cannot misrepresent their paperwork-claiming something is a legal document if it is not, or pretend something is not a legal document, if it is.
  • Debt collectors may not contact anyone who has filed the paperwork to declare bankruptcy.

You also have the right to notify the bill collector in writing that you do not wish to be contacted again. While this should stop the contact, they are allowed to contact you to inform you that they are going to sue you to collect the debt. On the other hand, you have the right to sue a debt collector who has violated the law, and you could be entitled to monetary damages.

Keep in mind that if issues about unpaid bills have gotten to the stage where court proceedings are being considered, it's time to talk to an attorney. An experienced attorney can advise you of your rights with debt collectors, work with them to resolve the issue, advise you about your rights to sue, and also advise you about how declaring bankruptcy could help you get back on top of your financial life and put a stop to contact from debt collectors-for good.