The first thing to know if you are contacted by a debt collector is to understand that you are not alone. According to the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, a third of consumers have been contacted about debts in the past year alone.
Of those contacted about a debt, one third report that the amount they were asked to pay was incorrect. So know that collection agencies make mistakes, and know, too, that there are rules in place to protect you from debt collector abuse.
Let's look at some other things to know when you are contacted, according to a recent news article in which a credit counselor and bankruptcy attorney gave advice to consumers. The pair notes that when you are called, the agency must tell you who they represent and how much you allegedly owe. And just as important: the collectors can only phone you between 8:00 a.m. and 9 in the evening.
If they call you at work, you can ask them to stop contacting you at your employer's.
Some things they cannot do, no matter what, include the following: swear at you. Make threats about criminal proceedings or lawsuits they don't intend to file. They cannot lie to you or impersonate government officials.
Something they have to do: stop contacting you after you have sent them a letter to stop their collection efforts. You can also tell them this during a phone call. The upside of doing this is that their pestering of you stops. The downside: they no longer have any incentive to negotiate or settle the debt for a lesser amount.
So if the debt is legitimate, you might see the collector take court action to garnish wages or pursue your bank accounts, said the credit counselor.
A Philadelphia consumer protection attorney can help you fight back against debt collection abuse. You can contact Bensley Law Offices for a confidential discussion of your legal options.