Recently the Washington Post ran the article When Debt Collectors Disrupt Dinner and they mentioned something important to remember,
"When talking with a caller about a debt, caution is the watchword. While it's essential to be completely truthful, a consumer cannot be forced to answer any questions. Some experts advise avoiding even acknowledging owing the debt. And there are some things that should never be said."They bring up some good points in the article and these are a few things I have personally learned. Just because you owe someone money doesn’t mean that they can walk all over you, call you endlessly, and make life a pain. There are some things to keep in mind as you try to organize yourself to pay off your debts; the debtor has rights as well.
$1 - A collector may contact you by phone, mail or in person. However, they can not contact you before 8am or after 9pm. Also, if you let the collector know that your employer does not approve of collection calls they may no longer contact you at work.
$2 - The next step to narrowing down their contact with you is to send a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter. This is done via regular ’snail’ mail and best sent registered mail so you know they received it and have physical proof. This letter would be similar to this letter. This does not mean that you do not owe the debt necessarily, it simply narrows down the way they can contact you by legal means and you can start a ‘folder of proof’ if it ever goes to court.
$3 - A debt collector can, by law, contact other people who know you, but they can only ask for your address, phone number and place of employment. In most states they are FORBIDDEN to reveal that the call involves an unpaid debt.
If this happens, having the people who are being contacted, write down the call date/time and any other information will help you in court.
$4 - Collectors can contact your place of employment only once and that is to verify employment status and location. They can’t ask for any other information and they are in violation of the law if they contact your employer after the initial contact.
$5 - It is illegal for a debt collector to use obscene or profane language when they speak with you. They are also FORBIDDEN to threaten you with violence or telephone repeatedly with the intent of harassment. They are also FORBIDDEN to misrepresent themselves as law enforcement or working for the government.
$6 - Debt collectors can not use false names or give you false information about their company. They can’t threaten to take your property unless it is handled legally and they can’t contact you via postcard.
$7 - If you dispute a collection you MUST contact them in writing within 30 days from the time you receive the notice. Collectors can demand money from you or take legal action during this time until they receive the letter on file. This also a good reason for sending any letters via registered mail.
$8 - If you offer to make a partial or incremental payment, the original creditor nor can the collection agency later ask for full payment.
Some collectors work on commission and will press you for a full payment, but if you know that the original creditor would accept the partial, they are in violation of the law.
$9 - Collectors can legally discuss your debt with your spouse, even if you weren’t married at the time you incurred the debt. If the debtor was a minor, collectors can talk to the parent as well.
$10 - Finally, This is NOT legal advice. If you believe you are being illegally harassed, take notes and keep all paperwork, also contact the Federal Trade Commission (877.382.4357) or your Attorney General. You can also speak with a certified lawyer for advice as well. Personally, I have found a great amount of help through the CreditInfoCenter forums, however they are not official legal advice either, but will direct you down a proper path.