Action Line: Debt collection by phone has rules
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Sunday, December 09, 2012
12/09/12 at 4:35 AM
Dear Action Line: What kind of scam is going on with these calls where they mention a name then tell you to hang up if you are not this person? Do you know who is making these calls? What do they do if you don't hang up but instead stay on the line for the whole message? Do they give a phone number or any information you might use to get off their call list? - M.M., Broken Arrow.
This sounds like the freewheeling approach of a debt collection outfit. They already have your name and number - probably off some old collection file that no longer applies to you that they bought to trick you into paying - and they want to confirm they have the right person at the right phone number.
FDCPA: The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - see an FTC summary at tulsaworld.com/ftccollectors - generally prohibits the use of deception by debt collectors. But this is probably not "misrepresentation" but "deceit by omission" that is not prohibited by the act. The caller just wants you to admit you are the person he is looking for so he can begin bugging you night and day for that $200 you stopped owing 10 years ago.
Last contact: If a collector contacts you about a debt, you should talk to him at least once to see if you can resolve the matter - even if you don't think you owe the debt, can't repay it immediately or think the collector is contacting you by mistake. When you decide you don't want the collector contacting you again, tell him this in writing.
Certified letter: Write a letter demanding proof of the debt. If none is available, demand the collector cease further contact. Copy your letter and send the original by certified mail, "return receipt requested," to document the collector received your letter.
Once he receives it, he may not contact you again - except with two exceptions: the collector may contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to tell you the creditor will take specific action such as a lawsuit. Sending the letter to the collector does not void the debt, but just stops contact. The creditor or collector still can sue you to collect the debt.
Continued contact: If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, not you. If you don't have an attorney, a collector may contact other people - but only to find out your address, your home phone number and where you work. Collectors are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. Other than to obtain this location information about you, a debt collector is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse or your attorney.
Debt verification: Collectors must send you a written validation notice of the amount owed within five days of contacting you. This also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and how to proceed if you don't think you owe the money.
Original Print Headline: Debt collection has rules
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