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29. Know your rights when dealing with debt collectors
Federal law protects you from abusive practices by debt collectors. Even so, the Federal Trade Commission routinely receives more complaints about the debt collection industry than any other.
For 2007, the latest figures available, the FTC received nearly 71,000 complaints about third-party debt collectors. Put another way, one out of every five consumer complaints that the agency receives involves debt collection.
Among the top gripes were debt collectors demanding a bigger payment than owed; harassing consumers through repeated calling and obscene language; calling early in the morning or late at night; and threatening violence if consumers didn't pay.
If you have debt collectors mercilessly hounding you, know your rights. For instance, debt collectors cannot:
• Call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you give permission.
• Contact you at work if they know your employer doesn't want such calls.
• Harass you by using profanities, repeatedly call to annoy you or threaten violence.
• Lie about the size of your debt or threaten to take legal action against you if they have no intention of doing so.
A collection agency must send you written notice of a debt within days of first contacting you. If you respond by letter within 30 days stating that you don't owe the money, the agency can't contact you again unless it sends proof of your debt.
For more information, check the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act at ftc.gov.
September 29, 2004