Educational Consumer Tips

**** Fair Debt Collection

Author: Better Business Bureau

Collecting personal, family, and household debts is covered under the Fair Debt Collection Act. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, medical care, or charge accounts. A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who collects debts owed to others. Such collectors may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or FAX. However, a debt collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8am or after 9pm, unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse any person. Debt collectors also may not contact your friends, relatives, employer or others, except to find out where you live and work. Nor may they tell such people that you owe money. Debt collectors may not make any false statement, including that you will be arrested; and threaten to have money deducted from your paycheck or to sue you, unless the collection agency or creditor actually intends to do so and it is legal to do so. When asked to make payment for a bill, real or not, you have the right to proof of the debt. Without such proof, you may not be able to determine if you are the target of a fraud. You may write a letter telling a collector to stop contacting you unless such proof is provided, or for other reasons. Specify in your letter that you expect proof of the debt and confirmation that they will not contact you again regarding the matter or any other reasonable request you wish to make within X number of days (this can be any number you feel is fair). Send your letter by certified mail to obtain proof that the collection agency received it and the date it was received. To determine the deadline for complying with your request, simply add the number of days to the date the letter was received. Once the agency receives your letter, it may not contact you again except to provide the requested proof, say there will be no further contact or inform you that the debt collector, or your creditor, intends to take a specific action. Per Sec. 392.101 of the Texas Finance Code, Third party debt collection agencies are required to obtain a surety bond and file a copy of it with the Texas Secretary of State. Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General's office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states also have their own debt collection laws and your Attorney General's office can help you determine your rights. If you have questions about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or your rights under the Act, write: Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Division of Credit Practices, Washington, DC 20580. Although the FTC generally cannot intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring investigation and possible action.