Under the Federal Trade Commission's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), collection agencies may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means to collect debts. They may not harass, oppress, or abuse any person while attempting to collect a debt. You may be contacted between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. only and can be contacted at work unless you instruct the company not to. Collectors may not tell 3rd parties about the debtor's personal finances. A debtor's spouse is not considered a third party.
You do not have to communicate with the debt collector by phone. You may request that the debt collector only communicate with you in writing. Keep in mind, if a debt collector continues to call you after this request, they are in violation of the FDCPA.
Keep a documented record of all communication with the debt collector. This includes phone conversations, e-mail and written mail. If you have notified the debt collector that you are represented by an attorney they may not contact you - they can only communicate with the attorney.
You can send the debt collector a "cease and desist" letter stating that the collector should cease and desist any additional communication with you. This letter only applies to debt collectors and not the original creditor. Send this letter via certified mail and a return receipt requested so that you have proof the letter was sent and received.
After the cease and desist letter the debt collector may contact you once more to inform you of one of three things: further efforts to collect the debt are terminated, certain actions could be taken by the debt collector, or the debt collector is absolutely going to take certain actions.
According to the FDCPA, the consumer has 30 days to notify the collections agency that the debt is disputed or to request the name of the original creditor. Upon this notification, the debt collector should cease collection of the debt until they obtain verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor. This information should then be mailed to the consumer.
A collection agency will not recover everything. Generally, 20-35% is an acceptable "liquidation rate." The process takes time and results are not immediate. A debt's age and quality of the contact information provided plays a large role in the recovery rate. A newer debt, good contact information, and a signed approval to reach a consumer on their cell phone leads to a higher recovery rate.
In Maryland you can contact the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to learn if a collection agency is licensed or to file a complaint. Call 410 230-6100 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org