Wallingford, CT, July 21, 2008 --(PR.com
)-- As Americans struggle to cope with rising debt loads, complaints to Better Business Bureaus about some debt collection practices increased 26 percent in 2007.
Consumers’ most common complaints concern rude telephone calls, threats to have them arrested, using other forms of intimidation and violating federal law by ignoring the Do Not Call Registry. Some victims have even received repeated telephone calls on their cellular and home telephones.
According to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President Paulette Hotton, so-called third party debt collectors are going far beyond what the law permits them to do.
“Legitimate debt collection agencies know the rules and follow them, but some debt is sold to other companies which use threats and intimidation, and disregard an industry code of ethics that prohibits these kinds of behaviors.”
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collection companies are prohibited from abusive tactics to frighten people in debt, and obliged to treat debtors fairly.
Some of the worst cases involve collectors calling neighbors, friends and employers in an effort to shame debtors into paying up.
A federal court recently entered an order against a Florida debt collection agency for sending misleading letters and making abusive telephone calls falsely claiming consumers would be sued, their wages garnished and property seized unless they paid up.
Consumers have a right to a written notice within five days after being contacted by a debt collector spelling out the name of the company, how much money you owe and how you can contest their claim if you believe you don’t owe the amount stated in the document.
Though such a letter does not protect you from being sued for the debt, collectors are not allowed to contact you after receiving a letter asking them to stop, though they may still inform you what action they intend to take.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from rogue debt collectors in several ways, prohibiting them from:
1.Calling you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. unless you consent.
2.Misrepresenting the amount of money you owe.
3.Using vulgarity or threats, such as claiming they will put a lien on your property or file a lawsuit, unless they intend to do so through legitimate procedure.
4.Contacting you at work if they know your employer disapproves.
5.Claiming they will confiscate your federal benefits such as Social Security or retirement accounts.
Some debt has a statute of limitations. In Connecticut, it is 6 years.
The debt is still collectible but the collector loses the right to sue consumers over money owed. A cautionary note however: If you make any payment within that period, the statute of limitations is renewed for another 6 years, giving the collector the right to sue for payment once again.
If you feel you are being harassed or treated unfairly by a debt collector, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 877-HELP (877-4357) or visit www.ftc.gov.
You should also contact the Connecticut Attorney General’s office at (860) 808-5030 or online at www.ct.gov/ag, and file a report with your Better Business Bureau so other consumers can verify if complaints have been filed about a particular debt collection company.
Keep in mind none of this protects you from collection of a legitimate debt, however it can help you recognize and protect yourself from abusive debt collection practices.