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The following is BBB general information and is not intended as a report on any specific company.
If you experience problems with a collection agency, it's important to know your rights. There are two types of debt collectors: creditors, to whom you owe money directly, and third party collectors, which collect on behalf of companies.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, creditors and third party collectors may NOT:
*use false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means
*harass, oppress, or abuse any person while seeking payment
*use any false statements or engage in unfair practices.
The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offer the following information on fair collection practices:
*Debt collectors may not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to alternative times. They may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax; however, they may NOT contact you by postcard.
*Collectors also may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves. You may stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the agency telling them to stop. Once the agency receives your letter, it may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact, or to notify you if they intend to take a specific action.
*If you have an attorney, debt collectors may not contact anyone other than your attorney once you've provided the attorney's information. If you do not have an attorney, collectors may contact other people, but only to find out where you live and work. In most case, collectors may not contact such permissible parties more than once and cannot reveal to anyone other than you or your attorney that you owe money.
*Within five days after you are first contacted, collectors must send 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. If you believe the company contacted you in error, you must write to them within 30 days after the initial contact; upon receipt of your letter, the company must cease collection activities. However, if the company can provide proof of the debt such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed, the company may renew collection proceedings.
Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices while attempting to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
*use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation
*publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau)
*use obscene or profane language
*use phone calls to repeatedly harass you
*fail to identify themselves on the telephone
*advertise your debt
*threaten arrest if you do not pay your debt
*say 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
*indicate that actions such as a lawsuit will be taken against you, which legally may not be taken, or which they do not intend to take
*collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law
*deposit a post-dated check prematurely.
Debt collectors may not use false statements when collecting a debt. For example, they cannot:
*falsely imply they are attorneys or government representatives
*falsely imply you have committed a crime
*falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau
*misrepresent the amount of your debt
*misrepresent the involvement of an attorney in collecting a debt
*indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they are
*give false credit information about you to anyone
*send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not
*use a false name.
If you believe a debt collector has violated the law, you may sue in state or federal court within one year from the date of the possible violation. If you win, you may recover money for damages you suffered, including court costs and attorney's fees. You should also report problems with debt collectors to the Attorney General's office and the Federal Trade Commission.
For more information, contact:
Better Business Bureau Serving Upstate NY
New York State Attorney General
New York State Consumer Protection Board
New York State Banking Department
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
This report is general in nature and is not intended as a Business Review on any company, service or product.