Financial Literacy Month: Dealing with Dirty Debt Collectors

When it comes to paying your debts, it’s important to know your rights so that you don’t get taken advantage of. On this last day of Financial Literacy Month, we’ll offer you a few tips on how to be aware of some of the sneaky things debt collectors like to do in order to coerce you into paying a debt you may not even owe. Guidelines set by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act state:

1. A debt collector must identify himself. During all communications, collectors must state they are debt collectors and any information they collect could be used to recover the debt.

2. A debt collector may not harass you. For example, a debt collector may not use profanity or abusive language.

3. A debt collector may not make false threats. A debt collector is barred from making threats about what will happen to you if you don’t pay up unless he or she has the legal authority and intent to proceed with the action. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently shut down a collection agency that lied to customers and told some of them they would have their children taken away if they failed to pay their debts. If you receive a threat like this, report it immediately.

4. A debt collector cannot request an amount that is different from what is legally required. For example, a debt collector cannot lie about or misrepresent the amount you owe. The CFPB noted that many consumers had complained about attempts to collect a debt that had been discharged in bankruptcy.

5. A debt collector cannot request an amount that is not clearly authorized by your debt agreement. The CFPB says consumers should beware of a collector requesting interest, fees, or expenses that were not owed, such as unauthorized collection fees.

6. You must receive written notice of your debt. Debt collectors are required to send a notice of your debt amount as well as the name of the creditor who is owed the debt. They must also state they will obtain verification of your debt and mail it to you if you happen to dispute the debt in writing within 30 days of receiving the notice.