How many people do you think get their rights violated daily by debt collectors? The number is probably quite astounding. As a college student, I’ve been on both sides of these conversations. I worked a medical billing company where we collected past due debts, and I have past due debts. So I know how tough both can be. However, I will almost never side with a debt collector because they almost always do something wrong.
For instance, debt collectors can’t tell you that your wages will be garnished if they really have no intentions to garnish your wages or no means to do so. They also can’t call you at work if you’ve asked them not to or call you during certain hours of the day (they are allowed to call between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 pm in your time zone, regardless of what time zone they are in), just to name a few.
So what do you do if you feel like your rights have been violated? You read up on the Fair Debt Collection Act (passed in 1977) to verify that they are actually breaking the law. If they are in fact breaking the law, there are several things you can do.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against the collector.
- File a complaint with your state’s Attorney General.
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
- File a civil suit in your state or federal court for up to $1,000, including damages.
It’s important to know that the most influential advocate in your situation is you. Always advocate for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can even keep a log of the number of times negative things have happened. In my opinion, this is the BEST way to safeguard yourself should you need to go to court. Keep a log of anything that the collector told you that you felt was wrong in any way. Make sure you date and timestamp your log. Make sure you do this every time the collector calls. This way, you have data that backs up your story.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask to speak to a supervisor if an agent is being rude and threatening. If they get in trouble for that, then so be it. They should.
The point is, no one has the right to threaten you with false threats. No one has the right to make you feel like you did something wrong simply because you can’t pay your bills. Always try to work out payment options with your collector, but if you can’t and the threats continue, don’t be afraid to file a complaint. It will only help you and someone else later down the road.
[This article was featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance at a gai shan life.]