You have the right to be treated fairly by debt collectors. Under federal law, they can’t use abusive, deceptive or unfair practices to collect from you. But not all debt collectors play by the rules. In fact, at the FTC’s request, a federal court recently halted operations and froze the assets of a Georgia-based debt collection business that according to the FTC’s complaint used lies, threats and intimidation to collect more than $3.4 million from consumers since January 2015.
Here’s a taste of the defendant’s illegal tactics as alleged by the FTC:
- They falsely told consumers across the nation they had committed a crime, like check fraud, and unless they paid the alleged debt, they could face arrest, lawsuits, wage garnishment — even jail.
- They harassed consumers, even after given evidence that the debts had been paid off.
- They illegally contacted family, friends, and employers about the consumers’ debts.
- They failed to give consumers required notices and disclosures, like a written validation notice, which has to include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor owed, and the consumer rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If you get a call about a debt you don’t recognize, or don’t think you owe, here’s what you can do:
- Find out who you’re dealing with. Ask for the collector’s name, the company’s name, and its address and phone number.
- Ask for a written “validation notice.” It tells you how much money you owe, the name of the creditor, and what to do if you don’t think you owe the money.
- Do your own detective work. Reach out to the company the collector says is the original creditor. They might help you figure out if the debt is legitimate — and if this collector has the right to collect the debt.
It’s important to understand your rights if you’re contacted by a debt collector. And if you believe a collector has violated those rights, the FTC wants to hear about it. Your complaint gives us a lead to follow, and may stop a collector from mistreating someone else. Got a minute? Watch our short video about Dealing with Debt Collectors.