As if the stresses of managing a significant debt load aren’t enough, your life can become even more stressful if any of those debts should go to collections. This is because your life will then begin to include unwelcome phone calls, text messages and emails.
It’s a well-known fact that accounts receivable professionals can be quite relentless when it comes to pursuing their endeavors. However, there are regulations within which they must work. Here’s a list of some of the things bill collectors can’t do to try to get you to pay an outstanding debt.
Visit Your Place of Employment
Talk about nightmare scenarios; can you imagine the humiliation you’d experience if someone showed up at your job loudly talking to you about money you owe? Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act prevents this. It also prohibits them from phoning you at work after you’ve informed them your employer does not allow you to make or accept personal calls.
Call Whenever They Like
Attempts to reach you in person or by phone must be restricted to the hours falling between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. in your time zone — unless you grant them permission to do so at other times.
Further, if you inform the collector you’ve engaged legal representation in the matter, they must communicate through the attorney. Similarly, if you’re working with a debt settlement company like Freedom Debt Relief, you can insist they speak to your agent there, rather than contacting you.
Engage in Harassment
All contact must be conducted in civil terms. They are required to address you respectfully, without engaging in obscenities or employing profane language. Threatening physical harm is forbidden, as is phoning you repeatedly over the course of a day.
These courtesies must be extended to any third party with whom they converse about you as well. They are also prohibited from threatening to publish your name in any public forum in connection with the debt. However, they can report information about you to credit bureaus.
Correspondence sent to you via traditional mail must be discreet. The outer envelope cannot contain logos or any other information potentially identifying its source as a collections organization.
Lie to You or Otherwise Mislead You
The purposes of all communication must be disclosed before any discussions begin. They must identify themselves as a collections agent and tell you the purpose of the interaction is an attempt to collect a debt.
You have the right to ask (without admitting you owe the debt) when the debt was incurred. If it’s beyond a certain period of time, you might not have to pay, unless you admit to owing the debt. If a call is to be recorded, you must be informed of that fact and afforded the right to decline said recording.
The amount owed must be communicated precisely. They cannot claim to be an attorney, a representative of any government organization, a member of a police department or an agent of a credit reporting company. It’s a good idea to conduct some research to determine if your state requires collections people to be licensed. If so, ask for their licensing information before engaging with them. If they cannot provide it, you don’t have to speak with them.
They are also prohibited from attempting to collect interest, fees or charges beyond those to which you acquiesced when you signed the original loan agreement. Moreover, they cannot falsely threaten you with arrest or legal action.
If Someone Does Any of the Above…
Complaints regarding violations of these things bill collectors cannot do should be submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state Attorney General.