Posted: Contributor | May 1, 2014

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Living In Fear of the Debt Collector? Know Your Rights

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If you have received nasty phone calls at home or at work, you may be worried about whether or not your rights are being violated. While it is the job of collection agencies to attempt to recoup the debt that they've bought from your creditors, there are certain protections in place to ensure that your personal rights aren't being violated. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has clear guidelines laid out at www.consumer.ftc.gov to describe what types of debt are covered and exactly how they enforce the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Can You Be Contacted Any Time of Day?

According to the FTC policy, collectors don't have the right to call you at inconvenient times or places. Generally, they are restricted to phoning only between the hours of 8 AM and 9 PM. If you've received a call while at your place of work, this too is prohibited under certain circumstances. You simply need to apply either in writing or with an oral verification that you no longer wish them to call you at work and then they are forced to desist. The best way to stop contact is to send a letter (and keep a copy for your own files) via certified mail and pay for a "return receipt" so you'll have documented proof that the agency has received your request for the cessation of contact.

Can an Attorney Help to Alleviate Your Fears?

If you have legal representation of your debt, the collector is obligated to contact them instead of you. If you don't have a lawyer, other people may be contacted, but only in order to verify: your address, your home phone number, and your place of employment. However, collection agencies are restricted from contacting these third parties more than once, so if your friends or family (or your employer) are contacted a number of times, you have a case to make a complaint against the agency. In this case, it's advised to hire an attorney. A claim of harassment is possible, but only if the agent uses threats of violence or harm, threats of seizing assets, threats of wage garnishment, or threats of legal action against you, or if they publish your name, use obscene language, or continually make calls in order to annoy you. For a better understanding of these limitations, talk to a specialist in debt management.

When Does a Collector Have the Right to Contact You?

Each collection agency must provide you with a "validation notice" describing the amount owing within five days after they make initial contact. The information must have the name of the creditor from whom the debt is ascribed. If you return a letter stating that you don't owe any or all of the money for whatever reason, or that you wish to receive a verification of the debt, then they must discontinue contact. Be aware that you need to send this letter within 30 days of getting a validation notice. Once you've received verification, such as a bill for the amount owing, the agency is then permitted to resume its communication with you.

There's no need to live in fear of the phone ringing or the long walk to the mailbox. You may even wish to talk to the collector in order to gain insight into your case. Once you've built up your knowledge base, you will understand what rights you have and what rights the collectors have. Then you'll be able to move onto the next step, which is repairing your credit and dealing with your debt problems.

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