Wouldn’t it be great if collection agencies exclusively hired puppies? The puppy debt collectors would cuddle with you until, you know, you’re ready to pay. Unfortunately, real debt collectors are closer to porcupines than puppies: ideally, you’d prefer to avoid them.
Some debt collectors have gone through painful lengths to collect—so much so that collection agencies received over 17,000 complaints in the last year alone, according to the Better Business Bureau. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has ruled notoriously nasty business practices off limits, but consumers need to know when the collection agencies have crossed the line. Here is a guide to the worst case scenarios, when debt collectors are downright breaking the law:
The Debt Collector from Hell: Five Collection Nightmares
1) The debt collector adds you on Facebook
You may be curious about a debt collector’s Saturday nights, but if a collector tries to be your Facebook friend, simply say no. Collectors who try invasively public methods are acting abusively and violating the act. For example, your name cannot be published on any public “bad debt” list. Nor can collectors contact you through any embarrassing media. This means no postcards, explicit envelopes, telegrams and certainly no Facebook wall posts.
2) The debt collector takes your boss to the ball game
Imagine the debt collector sidling up to your boss, slowly increasing the pressure. This debt collector is making a series of serious violations. To begin with, debt collectors cannot contact third parties about your debt, which means anyone aside from you or your attorney. Collectors are prohibited from contacting your neighbors, co-workers and definitely your boss. In fact, debt collectors should steer completely clear of your work place, as long as you tell them it’s off limits. This means debt collectors should not even call you at work, if you have stated that it is unacceptable to your employer.
3) The collector drunk dials you at 2 a.m.
Drunk dialing is always embarrassing, and it’s particularly embarrassing for a debt collector who is breaking the law. Debt collectors are limited to contacting you within reasonable hours of the day. Unless you state otherwise, calls should be limited to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. This means no wake-up calls and absolutely no late-night chats. This is basic phone etiquette, after all. Debt collectors cannot keep your phone ringing or maintain endless phone calls simply to annoy you. If you have had enough, collectors are also required to cease communication upon written request.
4) The collector tries to kidnap you
Even the threat of bodily harm is highly illegal. Collectors cannot use abusive or profane language, nor threaten you in any way. If the collector succeeds in kidnapping you and asks for a million dollars above your original debt, they are definitely violating several laws. Aside from the illegal kidnapping, debt collectors cannot seek unjustified amounts. This includes any extra interest fees, charges or expenses that were not in the original contract. Keep in mind that collection agencies are already making a profit off you.
5) The debt collector arrests you
Alert: those are fake handcuffs! Debt collectors are not police, and they are explicitly prohibited from pretending to be police, attorneys or anything other than collectors. This is considered a false or misleading representation. In addition to false representation of their roles, debt collectors cannot misrepresent the character, amount or legal status of the debt. In short, debt collectors should not make up information all willy-nilly, and if you think something sounds dubious, do not hesitate to investigate.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
If you are faced with any abusive debt collectors, you have several avenues in which you can report. You can complain with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding any particular loans, such as mortgage, credit card or student debt. You can also contact your state Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Better Business
Bureau. Not to mention, make sure you let the debt collector know they are crossing the line.
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