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Protect your rights from bill collector harassment

Cope with an angry caller
Cope with an angry caller

The phone rings at 2 a.m. It's that annoying bill collector . . . again. You already told him you were working on it. What's he want now?

He starts with an air horn and finishes with foul-mouthed threats against you and your wife. You hang up astonished and frightened. He's way past what the law allows and is violating your rights.

The law, called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act  tells exactly what a debt collector may and may not do and if you may have to deal with a collector, you need to know your rights.

In Kentuckiana, there are dozens of companies who will help you deal with collectors and manage your debts. Most of these counseling services are not local (only a few have offices you can walk into) so your problems may be dealt with from Sacramento or Georgia or Michigan.

Jeffersonville, IN, is home to an international collection agency, Unique Management, whose policy is to keep it low key and polite. One agent says he is more successful when he is nice and that translates into new accounts for the company. But Unique's approach, unfortunately, is not the norm. Put yourself into Hal's shoes.

Hal lost his job and was trying to hold onto his truck so he could find work and have transportation. He was behind 3 months in his payments and the loan company's collector called him around the clock. He tried being polite because he didn't want to make the situation worse, but the collector became abusive and harassed him. It's true that Hal has an obligation to pay for his truck, but the collector has to obey the law, too.

The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on how to stop debt collectors from harassing you. Here are some of the things a debt collector cannot do:

  • Use profane or vulgar language
  • Call outside the legally set hours
  • Threaten in any way

But a debt collector can:

  • Give you a deadline
  • Call a neighbor for contact information (once)
  • Call back
  • Make an entry on your credit report (Equifax, Transunion, or Experian)  
  • Report the situation to legal authorities

The tougher the economy gets, the more of us will be getting these collection calls and it's important to know that we have rights, too. If you are being hounded by an unscrupulous debt collector, know your rights and fight back.


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