Aggressive debt collection is up: What you need to know to fight it

Published: Monday, March 19 2012 10:49 a.m. MDT

Aggressive debt collection is on the rise, but there are ways to protect yourself.

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Their phone calls come at dinner, before bed and at the intense part of a movie, but there are some things that aggresive debt collectors can’t do that debtors should be aware of.

Aggressive debt collection is rising, but they are not going unchecked.

The Federal Trade Commission has received a record number of complaints about debt collectors in 2011, according to ABC News. After receiving the nearly 181,000 complaints, the government agency has been cracking down on collectors who aren’t obeying the rules.

Some have received terrifying calls.

“Are you going to pay this bill or not? Or am I going to have to kill you?” a collector said in a recorded call by a consumer that was published in the ABC News article.

Consumers need to understand their state's statutes governing debt collectors’ ability to sue over old debts, Reilly Dolan of the FTC told ABC News. It’s possible that the debt is too old for collectors to force a consumer to pay.

The expiration date on old loans can be anywhere from two to 15 years and varies by state.

Debt collectors will use meaningless threats, like telling debtors they will “put them on a ‘refusal to pay’ list,” according to Credit.com. They also try and use fake deadlines to create a false sense of urgency.

Because of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors have to stop calling debtors at work if it is made clear that the employer doesn’t allow it.

The act also allows collectors to contact third parties to locate debtors. Once the debtor is located, however, collectors must stop contacting third parties.

“If a debt collector contacts third parties, we want to know about it because chances are that the collector violated one of more provisions of the FDCPA,” Sukhamn Dhami of the consumer law firm Dhami Law Firm, P.C. told Credit.com.

Debt collectors may also make it sound like paying off debt will improve credit ratings, which isn’t true because a collection account remains on a report for seven-and-a-half years, according to Credit.com.

They may also attempt to collect debts of deceased relatives, but payment isn’t required unless the individual was a co-signer.

Knowing other regulations governing what collectors can do may protect you from threats and harassment.

The FDCPA also states that debtors can only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and cannot call repeatedly in a short period of time as a harassment tactic, according to Investopedia. They also are prohibited from threatening consumers with jail time or that they will make unpaid debts public.

Collectors must stop calling if you asked not to call back, but may persist in collection efforts.

They are also not allowed to garnish wages or take personal property without first suing and obtaining a court order, according to Investopedia.

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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