These Questions & Answers should be of help to you if you are having problems with your credit or creditors. Please read all the Questions and Answers carefully. They should inform you and hopefully save you time and possibly money.
Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions about collections:
What rights do I have when collectors call?
If you are being harassed about bills or abused by a creditor, you have rights regardless of whether or not you owe the debt. Many of your rights depend upon who is trying to collect the debt. If a collection agency is trying to collect from you, its conduct is regulated by federal law - the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This law has put some important restrictions on collection agency activity. Violations of this law may entitle you to sue the collector. Collection agencies may not:
- Contact you at any unusual time or place they know is inconvenient to you; they may visit or telephone between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. (your time);
- Threaten violence or harm to you, your property, or your reputation;
- Use obscene, profane, or abusive language;
- Telephone you repeatedly or continuously, or try to annoy, abuse, or harass you or any other person at the called number;
- Use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means to collect a debt. They may not imply that failure to pay the debt will cause you to be arrested, imprisoned, have your wages garnished, or cause seizure or sale of your property, unless the creditor actually plans to take that action and can legally do so;
- Contact you directly, if you inform them that you are represented by an attorney;
- Falsely imply that they are vouched for or connected with government; they may not imply that the sheriff or other enforcement agencies stand behind them.
What are my rights when the caller is not a collection agency?
If a store, bank, or finance company is trying to collect its own account from you, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply. In either case however, if a bill collector, including an attorney, contacts you by telephone, he or she must identify him or herself and the company which he or she represents. It is to your benefit to deal with creditors whenever possible by responding in writing. Also, keep copies of letters, payment agreements, bills, and processed checks. Extreme harassment may still be illegal.
How do I verify that I owe the debt?
This paragraph applies only to collection agencies that must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you are contacted by a collection agency about a bill which you believe to be incorrect in its amount, or which you feel you simply don't owe, notify the agency in writing that you want a verification of the bill. This must be sent to you promptly and the collection agency may not contact you regarding a disputed bill until verification is sent.
When may collectors call about a debt?
A collection agency is restricted to making its telephone contacts with you to reasonable hours, usually not before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. The person calling a consumer is also prohibited from engaging in conduct which harasses, abuses or oppresses a consumer. Specifically, the caller can't threaten you with violence, or indicate that the agency has enlisted the aid of the government in its collection effort by claiming, for example, that the sheriff will come to your home and remove your furniture if you don't pay immediately.
May collectors contact other people about my debt?
Often the parents, relatives or neighbors of the consumer receive calls from collection agencies regarding the bills of a consumer. These third party contacts are permitted, but with important limitations -- a collector may not tell the third party that the consumer owes a debt, and the communication must be limited to the subject of the location of the debtor. If a collection agency has been harassing a third party, there are legal penalties for this type of behavior. If you or your family feels that you are being harassed by a collection agency, keep a written record of all your calls and contacts.
If you are being contacted at your job, you may tell the collector that your employer does not permit such calls during the work day and that the calls must stop. Your employer may or may not have an official policy on calls by collectors, but you can be confident that he or she would not be pleased to have you distracted from your work to receive such calls.
How do I stop a collector from calling me?
If you are simply fed up with any communication with a collection agency, you may notify the agency in writing not to communicate with you further. If they continue to bother you after your written notification, you may be entitled to damages. You are, of course, still responsible for the debt, and may be sued for the collection of the debt.
Where can I get more help on collection matters?
To locate a private attorney, check the yellow pages of your phone book or contact the Utah State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-698-9077 or (801) 531-9075.
Utah Legal Services may be able to answer your questions, call 328-8891 in the Salt Lake area, or statewide toll free 1-800-662-4245.
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