We all are well aware of the ill behavior, rough communication of the much-discussed debt-collectors when they get set to manage the collection of payments from individuals and indeed, many of you people already got the nightmarish experience of having to deal with them when they start chasing you for taking out the payment you owe. Even more reports are coming from some consumer groups about the fact that some debt collectors are crossing the line into illegality. Whenever you face a financial catastrophe - an illness or a job layoff, and you have got a load of unpaid debt piled on your shoulder or simply you've fallen behind on some bills, you are well aware that debt collectors would die to take out those payments from you by hook or by crook-using all the bad and mean ways as and when necessary.
Some most common complaints from consumers are about:
1) Collectors use vulgar and indecent language to compel you to make the payment to get rid of them.
2) Collectors threaten, harass, humiliate or repeatedly disturb over phone
3) They try to collect more than the customers really owe
4) They do not care about the consumers financial privacy and his right to keep his financial particulars secret; they just share the consumer's debt and credit related information with friends and family
5) Collectors even try to collect extra fees, like late fees or court costs etc.
However, complaints about debt collection agencies and against those collectors are on the rise. Perhaps, this situation of panic and harassment created by these collectors would be more clearly understood by the following real-life case studies obtained from different media:
1) In a case, a collector directly threatened to call a woman's workplace (office where she worked) "until she lost her job." –news obtained from National Consumer Law Center.
2) In another case, the debt collector threatened one 9-year-old child, who is the victim of identity theft, to take her mother away forever.—a story told by Mr. John Fugate, a Texas consumer attorney.
3) Another worth mentioning case I remember is about a debt collector who started calling up someone's grandmother four-to-five times a day and kept threatening her so that she dies very soon and the amount to be received from her life insurance policy can be easily used for payment of this debt.—complaint received by The Better Business Bureau.
The Federal Trade Commission revealed one highly interesting statistical feedback : according to them, they received much more complaints against debt collectors regarding their wrong activities and unlawful, unethical business than against any other industry for at least the last three years. For last five years, no. of complaints have increased by 43%, according to the market research carried out by Better Business Bureau.
But there are exceptions too, in the same block. ACA International is one of the largest credit agency and debt collection industry groups, and running without a single black spot or stigma in its whole trade history so far.
It goes beyond saying that to get rid of the debt collection related harassment, penalty, insult, shame and the risks involved of course, the best way is to make every effort to pay off the debt, close the entire chapter and stay debt-free. But, believe me, still it is very useful, effective and a wise decision to know your debt related legal rights in order to fight these mean collectors. Most people do not know their rights and suffer. And debt collectors take advantage of this fact only. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act clearly includes the necessary directives for the debt collectors to treat you and your family with dignity and respect—but no way the Act does imply that you do not need to pay your legitimate debt. Here are some expert advices on how to fight back against unethical collectors:
• A debt collector does not have the right to call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without prior consent from your end.
• If your employer disapproves, the collector can not contact you at work.
• If you do not intend to hear from a debt collector, send a letter telling the agency to stop calling you right away .They would have to abide by your wish by law. BUT--remember, stopping a collector from calling you does not set you free from your debt and they can still sue you.
• If you have employed an attorney to look after your finance and investment issues, the debt collector can contact your attorney. If not, your friends and family can be asked about how to get in touch with you.
• A debt collector has no right to misrepresent the exact amount of your debt.
• Use of profane or threatening, humiliating and pressurizing language either over phone or in person is strictly prohibited for a debt collector. Any such activity would be treated as a mental oppression done on the customer and would amount to an illegal act.
• A Debt collector can no way declare that he will put a lien on your property or file a lawsuit unless the agency really is set to do that and it is a legal step at that time.
• Collectors are not entitled to claim the federal benefits, such as Social Security or your retirement accounts, like your IRA or 401(k).
And, you should remember a few things more: once you are contacted over phone by any collector or a collection agency, you have the right to get a notice from their end regarding the detailed information of your debt. It should clearly outline amount your debt, to whom you owe the money, etc. A debt collector has the right to approach one for collection of a debt owed by an ex-spouse. In case the debt was taken while you married, you may be liable for the debt even after a divorce even if the divorce papers state your spouse is responsible to repay the debt.
If you are being constantly called by a debt collector, but the fact is that you do not owe a debt then you have to write a return letter to them stating that the debt is not yours within 30 days. Once a collector gets your letter, they should send you proof of the debt. You must make sure they can not make you pay a debt you do not owe. If you pay what you do not owe just to get rid of the collectors, it is just admission of a guilt you never committed; it will have a negative impact on your credit score.
If you ever think you are treated unfairly by any debt collector, take immediate action. You can anytime file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP. You should also contact your state attorney general's office.