Wednesday, July 17, 2024

5 Deceptive Tricks Debt Collectors Can’t Do

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Getting calls from debt collectors? Have you gotten behind on payments for your credit cards or another bill? If so, then you may have gotten unwelcome attention from a collection agency. They have a tendency to be persistent. They may call you several times a day, usually at inconvenient moments.

It’s bad enough when they call your cell phone, but what about when they call you at work? It can be unpleasant to have a collection agency call be routed to you through the receptionist. Moreover, that collection agency might call your work repeatedly.

Just as bad are those times when a collection agency calls family members. Usually, they disguise the reason for their call, but they will repeatedly attempt with the hope that they’ll get current contact info for you or that your relative will get fed up and persuade you to call.

Collection agencies also may reach you through the mail. It can make you feel like you’re being hunted. Between phone calls and letters, you feel like the collection agency is running your life.

It’s a stressful situation, and it’s an unfortunate truth that collection agencies take advantage of the fact that most consumers don’t understand the law.

Don’t Fall for These Tricks from Debt Collectors

The fact is that collection agencies are required to abide by restrictions in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or the FDCPA, but they frequently ignore these restrictions. That’s because they are out to collect money no matter what, and they are betting that you don’t know much about the protections that are afforded to you via the FDCPA.

Don't Fall for These Tricks from Debt Collectors

Collection agencies are prohibited from doing many things, but they may do them anyway when they think they can get away with it. You can stop them in their tracks by being familiar with these five things that debt collectors absolutely cannot do.

1. Try Collecting a Debt that You Don’t Owe

Debt collectors are notoriously bad at keeping up-to-date records. This means that you may have paid off a bad credit card debt two years ago, but now you have a new collection agency that’s hounding you about paying that debt.

Sometimes, the agency even knows that you paid off that debt, but they don’t care. They go after you anyway in a bid to get their hands on your money.

Whether the collector is acting knowingly or unknowingly, you don’t have to pay that debt again, and they can’t harass you for it. Instead, demand the necessary information from them in writing. The debt collector is required to send you a written notice of the debt after speaking on the phone with you. When you receive the written notice, reply to it with a certified letter that includes a return receipt. Check out the sample letters at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website to get ideas for the kind of information you can request.

2. Engage in Harassing Behavior

The law prohibits collectors from harassment, which may include:

  • Threatening you with violence;
  • Calling you at work if you have forbidden them to do so;
  • Using profane language;
  • Calling you prior to 8:00 am or later than 9:00 pm unless you have given permission to do so;
  • Making repeated phone calls; and
  • Contacting you after you have instructed them in writing to stop or have directed them to contact your attorney.

If a debt collector is harassing you, then you can report them to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Better Business Bureau.

3. Threaten You With Arrest

This is an essential point that too many consumers don’t know about. Some debt collectors will actually threaten to have people arrested if they fail to pay their debt. In the U.S., this is not a valid concern for debtors. People are not arrested and put in jail for failing to pay medical bills or credit card debt. What’s more, collection agencies aren’t empowered to issue arrest warrants.

4. Claim to be Acting on Behalf of a Government Agency

4. Claim to be Acting on Behalf of a Government Agency

Debt collectors sometimes will pretend that they are working for a government entity, like law enforcement, or that a consumer reporting agency employs them. As surprising as this seems, some debt collectors actually were arrested in 2014 in Georgia for telling debtors that they could be arrested and be brought up on criminal charges for not paying their debts. The collectors also said they were working with a variety of state and federal government agencies.

5. Cause You Public Shame

Debt collectors are in no way permitted to advertise your financial situation. They can’t even mail you a postcard because it might accidentally be read by someone other than the intended recipient. Collectors may contact third parties to try to get your contact info, but they cannot tell these people the purpose of their call, and they cannot call these third parties more than once.

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