Aggressive and relentless
Speaking of bad actors, AARP’s Amy Nofziger, who oversees the helpline, says, “They are relentless. They will call you morning, noon and night and will often even try to call your family. Many people are concerned that their identities have been stolen, but it is usually aggressive debt collectors who try to collect money whether it is actually owed or not. And they don’t care who pays. “
By law, collectors are generally prohibited from contacting debtors before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) both enforce federal laws governing debt collectors. For consumers, a starting point is knowing that the term “debt collector” can refer to the original creditor; an entity trying to collect a debt on behalf of a creditor; an entity attempting to collect on behalf of a third party who has bought back the debt of a creditor; or a third party who purchased the debt obligation.
If you’re contacted about a debt you don’t recognize, here’s what the FTC and CFPB advise:
1. Find out who is calling. Obtain their name and the name of the collection company as well as its address and telephone number. Also ask for a license number, as some states allow debt collectors. If you are denied such information, it is a red flag.
2. Get what is called “validation” of debt. Within five days of contacting you, a debt collector must tell you the amount of debt and the name of the current creditor. It is a red flag if this information is not given. If a debt is legitimate but you think the collector may not be, contact your creditor.
3. Don’t respond to threats. If someone says he or she will get you arrested if you don’t pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC online at [email protected] Likewise, creditors cannot call your employer about a debt; such awareness should generally be limited to knowing where you work and live and your telephone number.
4. Dispute the debt. If you think you don’t owe some or all of the debt, dispute it with the collector by mail or online.
5. If you believe the calls are fraudulent, send a letter demanding that the caller cease. phone you and keep a copy for your records. Here is examples of letters. Note: Sending a letter like this does not make the debt go away or stop a debt collector from suing you or reporting the debt to a credit bureau.
6. You may be able to renegotiate a debt seeking a reduction in late fees and interest or developing a payment plan.
7. If you are still having problems, ask for help. a non-profit organization credit counseling agency.
8. Beware of debt settlement companies that require the payment of an upfront fee to renegotiate your debt or establish a payment plan with creditors. There is no guarantee of success, and even worse, you could be in more debt than you started with.