If you’re having a problem with a debt collector, you don’t have to feel as if you were some kind of criminal. I read recently that approximately 30 million Americans have debts that are subject to collection. In other words if they’re not already being hounded by debt collectors, they certainly could be.
Even our government is in the act
The US government has actually paid debt collection agencies to go after people who have failed to pay back their student loans. In fact, it paid collection agencies millions of dollars last year to try to collect on student loan debt that had gone into default. And if you didn’t know this, you can never get rid of student loan debts even through a bankruptcy. Once you incur those debts, they will follow you around forever like a bad relative who just won’t go away.
You do have rights
Congress recently passed the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Its purpose is to protect consumers from abusive and harassing practices on the part of collection agencies. This means that debt collectors are not to use or threaten violence, use profane, obscene or abusive language or publish a list of people who supposedly owe a debt. They are also barred from communicating or threatening to contact your employer unless it has your permission. It is also not to disclose information about you to any third party unless it has your permission and is not to communicate with you if you have an attorney. Collectors are also not permitted to talk with you without disclosing that it is a debt collection agency.
What you can do
If you feel that a debt collector is violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the first thing you can do is send the agency what is called a cease and desist letter. In other words, it puts the agency on notice to not contact you again. (Note: you can find the form for a cease and desist letter at http://credit.about.com/od/debtcollection/a/ceaseanddesist.htm). If you choose to send one of these letters be sure to send it as Registered and as Return Receipt Requested so you can prove you sent the letter and that the collection agency received it.
What happens next
What happens next, at least in theory, is that the collection agency should communicate with you only once more – to say that it will not contact your again. However, there are unscrupulous collection agencies that will either refuse to accept your cease and desist letter or just ignore it.
Take the case to your AG
If this happens to you, you can file a complaint against the collection agency with your state’s attorney general’s office. It will then put the agency on notice that you have filed a complaint about it, which may be enough to get the agency to stop harassing you. If it doesn’t, your ultimate recourse is to hire an attorney and file suit. If the court finds the agency is liable, you can be awarded statutory damages – but no more than $1000 per violation. Beyond this, you could be entitled to actual damages. However, this will depend on where you live as the Federal Act does not allow for punitive damages.
A better solution
In the event you just can’t get a collection agency to stop harassing you, call us so our debt consolidation providers can help. We are so sure they can help you get out of debt in a reasonable amount of time that we offer a simple 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are unsatisfied with our recommended debt relief plans, you can cancel out and pay no fees or penalties. In other words, you have nothing to lose by letting us help.