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Stop Debt Collectors

Can you stop debt ... ? . . .You better know you canYou can stop debt ... under the law provided by the Fair ... ... Act. If you use credit cards, owemoney on a persona

Can you stop debt collectors ? . . .You better know you can

You can stop debt collectors under the law provided by the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act. If you use credit cards, owe
money on a personal loan, or are paying on a home mortgage, you are a

If you fall behind in
repaying your creditors, or an error is made on your accounts, you may be
contacted by a "debt collector." You should know that in either situation, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of
debt collection. Of course, the law does not erase any legitimate debt you owe.

What debts are covered?

Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Act. This includes
money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge

Who is a debt collector?

A debt collector is any person who regularly collects debts owed to others. This
includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.

How may a debt collector contact you?

A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax.
However, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places,
such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also
may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer
disapproves of such contacts.

Can you stop a debt collector from
contacting you?

You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the
collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they
may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to
notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific
action. Please note, however, that sending such a letter to a collector does not
make the debt go away if you actually owe it. You could still be sued by the
debt collector or your original creditor.

May a debt collector contact anyone else about your debt?

If you have an attorney, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather
than you. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people,
but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is, and where you
work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such third parties more
than once. In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and
your attorney that you owe money.

What must the debt collector tell you about the debt?

Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a
written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor
to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe
the money.

May a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe you do not owe

A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written
notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money.
However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of
the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.

What types of debt collection practices are prohibited?

Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any
third parties they contact.

For example, debt collectors
may not:

  • use threats of violence or

  • publish a list of consumers
    who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau);

  • use obscene or profane
    language; or

  • repeatedly use the
    telephone to annoy someone.

False statements. Debt
collectors may not use any false or misleading statements when collecting a
debt. For example, debt collectors may not:

  • falsely imply that they are
    attorneys or government representatives;

  • falsely imply that you have
    committed a crime;

  • falsely represent that they
    operate or work for a credit bureau;

  • misrepresent the amount of
    your debt;

  • indicate that papers being
    sent to you are legal forms when they are not; or

  • indicate that papers being
    sent to you are not legal forms when they are.

Debt collectors also may
not state that:

  • you will be arrested if you
    do not pay your debt;

  • they will seize, garnish,
    attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or
    creditor intends to do so, and it is legal to do so; or

  • actions, such as a lawsuit,
    will be taken against you, when such action legally may not be taken, or
    when they do not intend to take such action.

Debt collectors may not:

  • give false credit
    information about you to anyone, including a credit bureau;

  • send you anything that
    looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is
    not; or

  • use a false name.

Unfair practices. Debt
collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt.
For example, collectors may not:

  • collect any amount greater
    than your debt, unless your state law permits such a charge;

  • deposit a post-dated check

  • use deception to make you
    accept collect calls or pay for telegrams;

  • take or threaten to take
    your property unless this can be done legally; or

  • contact you by postcard.

What control do you have
over payment of debts?

If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt
you indicate. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe
you do not owe.

What can you do if you believe a debt collector violated the law?

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one
year from the date the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for
the damages you suffered plus an additional amount up to $1,000. Court costs and
attorney's fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt
collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the
collector's net worth, whichever is less.

Where can you report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney
General's office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own
debt collection lawsFeature Articles, and your Attorney General's office can help you determine
your rights.

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Omar M. Omar is the owner of and - Author of "The Credit Repair Bible" book. The website is dedicated to providing credit consumers free advice on how to repair credit. It also provides credit consumers numerous information about their credit report, credit laws, and their rights as a consumer.

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