Editor's Note

This Aggression Will Not Stand!

Unprincipled, rule-breaking debt collectors. The bane of our existence. It isn’t enough that many of us are fraught over how to tackle debt that sprung up from unforeseen bills, such as huge medical costs, and skyrocketing expenditures, such as student loans—let alone accounts that we already paid or aren’t even ours. These devious sharks, who prefer to call themselves accounts-receivable managers (gag!), harass and threaten us by means that aren’t permitted by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission.

Examples include:

  • I paid the debt in full over a week ago . . and they still continue to bombard my cellphone with calls.
  • I have not received any written or verbal communication from this company.
  • They cannot produce any form of proof that there is any invoices from the company.
  • The caller did not identify herself . . and she also claimed it was a “business matter.”
  • She immediately switched over to a harassing tone and nature.
  • They attempted to pump my parents for information.

These and thousands of other posts to the page on CFPB’s website, on which consumers can report inappropriate behavior by debt collectors, come about despite efforts by the agencies to hold debt collectors accountable for unacceptable actions.

For this reason, we welcomed CFPB’s proposals to revise regulations that govern collection activities. However, we are concerned that the proposals fall short of what’s needed, and we fear that lobbyists and politicians will block even these upgrades. I urge you to read “Past Due! New Rules to Rein in Nasty Debt Collectors.” You should be armed with everything possible to thwart debt collectors that hound and bully.

Debt-Collector Cans & Can’ts

They can:

  • Call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time until you’re reached.
  • Contact you via email, text and mail, as long as they disclose that they are debt collectors.
  • Contact you at work, unless you tell them that they can’t.
  • Call third parties, such as neighbors or employers, to obtain your address, phone number and workplace only.
  • Sue you in civil court to collect debts that they believe that you owe.
  • Use court judgments to garnish your wages.

They can’t:

  • Take more than 5 days after first contacting you. to send a written “validation notice” that describes what you owe.
  • Discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse or your attorney.
  • Continue to contact you if you send a letter within 30 days for verification or that states that you don’t owe that debt; they can begin to contact you again if they send you written verification of the debt.
  • Pretend to be someone else, such as an attorney or government agency.
  • Use profane language or verbally abuse you.
  • Threaten, harass or deceive you.
  • Threaten to garnish your wages unless they actually intend to do so.
  • Seize Social Security, veteran’s benefits or some other federal benefits to pay for a debt.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed new regulations include:

  • Debt collector would have to have sufficient information to start collection, such as full name, last known address, last known telephone number, account number, date of default, amount owed at default, and the date and amount of any payment or credit that was applied after default.
  • Debt collector would be limited to six communication attempts per week through any point of contact before it has reached you.
  • Consumer would have the right to limit means of contact, such as making a collector stop calling you at a particular phone number, while you’re at work or during certain hours.
  • Debt collector would have to wait 30 days after a consumer passed away before communicating about the deceased person’s debt with certain parties, including the surviving spouse.
  • Debt collector would be required to include more specific information about the debt in the initial collection notices that it sends to you; this information would include your federal rights.
  • Debt collector would have to disclose to you, when applicable, that the debt is too old for a lawsuit.
  • Debt-collection notices would include a tear-off portion that you could send back to the debt collector to easily dispute a debt, with options for why you believe that the debt collector’s demand is wrong.
  • You could verbally question the debt’s validity at any time and require the debt collector to have to check its files again.

Rich Dzierwa, Editor