My 80-something father was recently disturbed by some calls he was getting regarding debt collection. Why are they calling me, he wondered?
At first, he was worried because he was unsure if he had forgotten to pay a bill or had co-signed on a loan for a sibling. I told him that debt collectors can’t call you for something you don’t owe. If there was something due, they would have to send you something in writing. It was probably a scam. He ignored the calls and they stopped.
Debt harassment is a perennial problem, yet most people get intimidated when they get these calls, particularly this time of year. You have many rights, but most people don’t understand what they can do to protect themselves.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is actually one of the better consumer protection laws on the books. Policed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it has a number of safeguards that are designed to prevent harassment.
The FTC logged almost 120,000 debt collector complaints in 2009, which was up slightly from the previous year. Most of the inquiries involved in-house or third-party collectors, who make money on getting consumers to pony up.