You are responsible for your debts. If you fall behind in paying your creditors or an error is made on your account, you may be contacted by a “debt collector.” A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis.
This is a true story. Mrs. Nelson co-signed for a student loan for her granddaughter. When her granddaughter finished college and defaulted on the loan, the credit company’s collection agency started calling Mrs. Nelson. This woman was 85 years old at the time. The callers would say things to her like, “You can lose your home if you don’t pay this debt.” “We will start taking money from your social security payments,” and other harassing statements. They would also call every night at 9:00 pm, well after the time Mrs. Nelson had retired for the day.
Fortunately, this story had a happy ending because her granddaughter got in touch with the creditor and made payment arrangements and stuck to it. However, these days with the aggressiveness of debt collectors, this story and Mrs. Nelson’s experience are far more common that they should be.
Some debt collection companies pay their employees commission to collect on a debt or to get payment arrangements set up.
Understand that you have the right to be treated fairly by debt collectors.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) applies to personal, family, and household debts. This includes money owed for the purchase of a car, for medical care, or for credit accounts. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices while collecting these debts.
Your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
- Debt collectors may contact you only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Debt collectors may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves.
- Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you.
- Debt collectors may not lie when collecting debts, such as falsely implying that you have committed a crime.
- Debt collectors must identify themselves to you on the phone.
- Debt collectors must stop contacting you if you ask them to in writing.