Consumer Rights for Debt Collection
Debt Collectors Have Rules TooWould You Really Know if They Crossed the Line?
It's important to know your rights regarding debt collection. Both federal and state laws require businesses and debt collection agencies to follow certain rules. If you believe the agency violated your rights, contact your BBB or the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Board at (410) 528-8662.
Debt collectors may contact you in person, by mail, telephone or fax. They cannot contact you at unreasonable places or times, or so often it disturbs your daily life. They may not contact you at work if your employer disapproves of personal calls. If the original creditor has released your debt to a third-party collector, you can send a letter by registered mail to request it not contact you at your place of business. By law, the company must comply. Debt collectors may not reveal your debt to anyone except you or your lawyer. They may not threaten violence against you or your property, use obscene or abusive language, or advertise you have a debt.
A debt collection agency may not misrepresent the truth. They cannot use a false company name or creditor name, or release untrue information about you. They cannot insinuate you have committed a crime or that there will be legal repercussions if you do not pay a debt. Within five days of first contacting you, the agency must send you written notice of the amount owed with information about the original business or lender to whom you owed the debt.
If the debt is yours, do not avoid the situation. Some debt collectors have payment plans. Be truthful about your monthly budget. If the agency is willing to cooperate on a payment plan get everything in writing.
However, if you have reason to believe the debt may not be yours, you must send the debt collector a certified letter within 30 days. Include a receipt request and ask for proof of the original bill from the original creditor. Keep copies of all correspondence. In the event of a dispute, inform the company you are doing so, and send a copy of the letter to the MD Collection Agency Licensing Board. It is then the debt collection company's responsibility to prove the debt exists.