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How Consumers Can Protect Themselves From Abusive Debt Collectors
Consumer Rights and Debt Collectors
Helen is an 85 year old grandmother with 2 credit cards. Because she lives on a limited income, she often found it necessary to use her credit cards to buy groceries, pay her utilities and even purchase medications. Yes, she also indulged in some of those must have consumer items like a new TV and living room set. It took a number of years but Helen eventually found herself in an untenable financial position which became downright scary at times. Debtors were calling her at all hours of the day and night and using every trick in the book to encourage her to pay up. She was alone and frightened and felt too embarrassed to let her children know about the state of her finances and the aggressive debt collectors.
At the time Helen was being bombarded with demands from her creditors, she had no idea the she had any rights under the law. She felt guilty that she had incurred so much debt and she didn’t confide in family, or talk to any consumer rights agency or consumer rights law firm. She felt that the harassment was normal business practice.
State and federal laws are in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors. While debt collectors have the right to contact you by mail, phone or in person, they are not allowed to contact you at unreasonable times and at inappropriate places. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is clear about the type of treatment a consumer can expect from a debt collector by prohibiting certain tactics used in the collection of a debt.
For several months, Helen was held hostage to her creditors. She dealt with the harrowing situation by getting further into debt to pay minimum amounts on her bill in an effort to keep the persistent debt collectors at bay. She also stopped answering her phone, opening her mail and even changed her phone number several times. Little did Helen know that she could have stopped the harassment by simply writing a letter to the collection agency asking them to stop contacting her? The debt collection agency would have had to grant her request and stop contact with her requesting payment.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is designed to protect consumers from the abusive acts of debt collection agencies and to encourage fair debt collection practices. As in Helen’s case, seniors and those who are unable to defend themselves are particularly vulnerable to deceptive and unfair business practices. Consumers need to be given a clear accounting of what they owe as well as the opportunity to dispute information about their debt if they feel it is inaccurate. The Act contains guidelines concerning the behavior of debt collectors, specifies what rights the consumers have in their relationships with debt collectors and the penalties for violations of the act.
If you feel trapped by the debts you have incurred and hostage to the wiles of the debt collector, you should know that you are protected under the law. While the law does not remove your debt, it specifies how that death can be collected. A debt collector cannot engage in abusive behavior in the form of threats against you, your reputation or property. Annoying telephone calls, the use of obscene language or making your debt situation public, are all prohibited actions under the law and you can take action to stop the harassment.
First you should attempt to resolve the issue with your creditor. If you feel you can’t do it alone, don’t be afraid to confide in loved ones who may be able to support you in your fight with the creditor. If your efforts are unsuccessful or you feel you don’t want to talk to the creditors, you have the option of filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General’s Office. You have the right to sue a debt Collector if you believe the agency violated the law either in state or federal court.
There are many consumer protection agencies and consumer law firms that can help with any legal action you plan to take against the debt collector. Consumer law firms understand how consumer protection laws can benefit those consumers who are victims of abusive debt collection agencies. They can protect your rights by standing up to companies that break the law.
When the debt collector’s antics became too much for Helen to take, she confided in her daughter who referred her to a consumer law firm that explained her rights as a consumer under the law and helped her through the process. Helen is no longer afraid to answer her phone, her door, or to step outside.
You have the right to sue a debt collector
Consumer Protection resources
- Consumer Law Questions and Answers | Consumer Protection Laws | ConsumerLawQA.com
Consumers ask and attorneys answer. Free answers to legal questions about consumer law from attorneys on ConsumerLawQA.com. There are federal and state laws that protect your rights. A smart consumer can learn about legal rights before and after a fi
- Consumer Affairs USA
ConsumerAffairsUSA.org connects citizens to official consumer protection websites from national and state governments, and is a comprehensive resource for consumer-related facts, news and other trusted, unbiased information.
- Consumer Guides and Protection for Citizens | USA.gov
A to Z resources on consumer guides and protection.
- Consumer Rights - Consumer Protection Law
The rights of consumers are becoming increasingly important around the world. Governments have passed numerous laws to assure that end users have the